In principle, Facebook’s highly ambitious Internet.org initiative is not very different from Airtel’s irksome Zero plan, if you look at it carefully. Therefore, at a time when the subject of Net Neutrality is being so heavily cited across the length and breadth of the Internet using society, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg joining in the debate was all but inevitable.
Zuckerberg was recently asked to share his piece of mind on the subject and how Internet.org that envisages free access to a select few basic Internet services fits the vision of an open and fair Internet. The Facebook CEO said that while net neutrality is important, zero-rating programmes like Internet.org are as well. In fact, something like net neutrality and Internet.org can coexist, he said.
“I think Net Neutrality is important to make sure network operators don’t discriminate and limit access to services people want to use, especially in counties where most people are online. 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 coexist with Net Neutrality regulations.”
Clearly, Zuckerberg is not totally against telecom providers coming out with Zero plans, however, the fact that he wants these plans to be following certain Net Neutrality regulations is indeed a sigh of relief. Had he totally gone out and defended such plans, the result would be something like what was meted out on Flipkart recently.
Bowing down to the backlash, Flipkart recently pulled out of Airtel’s Zero plan that essentially would have allowed Airtel users to use the Flipkart app for free. The same may not be true for users of a different telecom network, unless they decide to come up with their own version of the Zero plan and make Flipkart free for them.
Facebook’s Internet.org project, that was launched recently in India in association with Reliance Communications offers more or less the same thing: it allows users to access certain websites for free.