Net Neutrality: Internet.org and net neutrality can co-exist, says Mark Zuckerberg

Net Neutrality: Internet.org and net neutrality can co-exist, says Mark Zuckerberg

Author | Abhinn Shreshtha | Friday, Apr 17,2015 3:08 PM

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Net Neutrality: Internet.org and net neutrality can co-exist, says Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg has taken to Facebook to clear the air over his pet project — Internet.org. In the last couple of days, Internet.org has come under the scanner as debates over net neutrality rage across the nation. Partners like Cleartrip and NDTV have withdrawn from the platform while the Times Group has also said it will back out (but only if its competitors do the same).

Net Neutrality: Times Group commits to withdraw from Internet.org

Internet.org, which launched in February supported by Reliance Communications, is part of an ongoing global initiative undertaken by Facebook to bring basic and affordable internet services to everyone.

Is Internet.org as altruistic as it sounds?

Addressing the current outrage against the platform, Zuckerberg wrote, “We’re proud of this progress. But some people have criticized the concept of zero-rating that allows Internet.org to deliver free basic internet services, saying that offering some services for free goes against the spirit of net neutrality. I strongly disagree with this. We fully support net neutrality. We want to keep the internet open. Net neutrality ensures network operators don’t discriminate by limiting access to services you want to use. It’s an essential part of the open internet, and we are fully committed to it. But net neutrality is not in conflict with working to get more people connected. These two principles — universal connectivity and net neutrality — can and must coexist.”

He also clarified that Internet.org will never throttle services or create fast lanes. “To give more people access to the internet, it is useful to offer some service for free. If someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access than none at all. Internet.org doesn’t block or throttle any other services or create fast lanes - and it never will. We’re open for all mobile operators and we’re not stopping anyone from joining. We want as many internet providers to join so as many people as possible can be connected,” he wrote.

Zuckerberg also said that Facebook was looking to expand its partnership in India to include other telecom operators. “Hopefully more to come soon,” he wrote. At the time of launch, when we asked Chris Daniels, VP of Internet.org about plans to include telcos, he had replied, “We are ready to work with them, but you should be asking them this." So far, the platform is limited to Reliance Communications.

Zuckerberg also reiterated that the services offered on Interent.org are selected after consultations with telcos and government organizations and not selected by Facebook itself.

In response to a user question on why access was limited to only certain web services, Zuckerberg responded, “It's too expensive to make the whole internet free. Mobile operators spend tens of billions of dollars to support all of internet traffic. If it was all free they'd go out of business. But by offering some basic services, it's still affordable for them and it's valuable and free for everyone to use.”

The full text of Mark Zuckerberg’s post is given below:

Over the past week in India, there has been a lot written about Internet.org and net neutrality. I’d like to share my position on these topics here for everyone to see.

First, I’ll share a quick story. Last year I visited Chandauli, a small village in northern India that had just been connected to the internet.

In a classroom in the village, I had the chance to talk to a group of students who were learning to use the internet. It was an incredible experience to think that right there in that room might be a student with a big idea that could change the world — and now they could actually make that happen through the internet.

The internet is one of the most powerful tools for economic and social progress. It gives people access to jobs, knowledge and opportunities. It gives voice to the voiceless in our society, and it connects people with vital resources for health and education.

I believe everyone in the world deserves access to these opportunities.

In many countries, however, there are big social and economic obstacles to connectivity. The internet isn’t affordable to everyone, and in many places awareness of its value remains low. Women and the poor are most likely to be excluded and further disempowered by lack of connectivity.

This is why we created Internet.org, our effort to connect the whole world. By partnering with mobile operators and governments in different countries, Internet.org offers free access in local languages to basic internet services in areas like jobs, health, education and messaging. Internet.org lowers the cost of accessing the internet and raises the awareness of the internet’s value. It helps include everyone in the world’s opportunities.

We’ve made some great progress, and already more than 800 million people in 9 countries can now access free basic services through Internet.org. In India, we’ve already rolled out free basic services on the Reliance network to millions of people in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala and Telangana. And we just launched in Indonesia on the Indosat network today.

We’re proud of this progress. But some people have criticized the concept of zero-rating that allows Internet.org to deliver free basic internet services, saying that offering some services for free goes against the spirit of net neutrality. I strongly disagree with this.

We fully support net neutrality. We want to keep the internet open. Net neutrality ensures network operators don’t discriminate by limiting access to services you want to use. It’s an essential part of the open internet, and we are fully committed to it.

But net neutrality is not in conflict with working to get more people connected. These two principles — universal connectivity and net neutrality — can and must coexist.

To give more people access to the internet, it is useful to offer some service for free. If someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access than none at all.

Internet.org doesn’t block or throttle any other services or create fast lanes -- and it never will. We’re open for all mobile operators and we’re not stopping anyone from joining. We want as many internet providers to join so as many people as possible can be connected.

Arguments about net neutrality shouldn’t be used to prevent the most disadvantaged people in society from gaining access or to deprive people of opportunity. Eliminating programs that bring more people online won’t increase social inclusion or close the digital divide. It will only deprive all of us of the ideas and contributions of the two thirds of the world who are not connected.

Every person in the world deserves access to the opportunities the internet provides. And we can all benefit from the perspectives, creativity and talent of the people not yet connected.

We have a historic opportunity to connect billions of more people worldwide for the first time. We should work together to make that happen now.

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