Over the past few days, many debates have been occurred in favor and against net neutrality. To this, Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg said that he supports net neutrality and restated the value of providing Internet access even if it’s limited to people in developing countries. This happened immediately after Indian publishers decided to remove their services from the Internet.org app, which is a wide-ranging plan to bring internet access to developing countries where the majority of the population may not yet be online.
ClearTrip, which was one of the partners in Facebook’s Internet.org, withdrew from the initiative after the whole debate on Net Neutrality exploded. NDTV, another partner of Internet.org, also announced its decision to pull out of the venture. NDTV is committed to net neutrality and is therefore exiting, and will not be a part of, Facebook’s Internet.org initiative. Times of India decided to withdraw from the initiative as well.
Net neutrality is the principle that the internet service providers should treat all the data on the internet equally and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, site, application or platform. There are no norms for it in the country as of now. Debate on net neutrality has been going since long on a global level but it triggered in India last year when the country’s largest operator Airtel in December 2014 decided to charge people for providing VoIP services like Skype and Viber. This national issue became outrageous and exposed internationally when the telecom regulator TRAI came out with consultation paper inviting user comments on the subject.
Internet.org empowers people with free access to online services but Zuckerberg made a contradictory statement to his initiative that it is too expensive to make the whole internet free since mobile operators spend tens of billions of dollars to support all of internet traffic. He also said that for people who are not on the internet though, having some connectivity and some ability to share is always much better than having no ability to connect and share at all. That’s why programs like Internet.org are important and can co-exist with net neutrality regulations.
However, net neutrality activists in India have ignited a serious debate around the service, saying providing access to only certain types of content violates the belief of net neutrality, which suggests a free and open Internet is essential. In support of net neutrality, Flipkart gave in to the social media furor and withdrew from the controversial Airtel Zero rating system. The Internet and Mobile Association of India, which counts firms like Google, Facebook, Snapdeal, Ola, MakeMyTrip and Saavn as its members, slammed TRAI and its paper.
Zuckerberg’s comment on net neutrality exhibits that is not in conflict with working to get more people connected and that his interest are more to push his initiative Internet.org in India for betterment.