October 7, 2015

Zuckerberg says, net neutrality and internet.org must co-exist. You agree?

The debate on net neutrality is not going to settle either way, with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg pushing forward his Internet.org with all his might. His meeting with Modi is supposed to have given him a big boost as he might get to popularise and legitimise Internet.org in India where the PM wants fast internet coverage of the population.

[If you have forgotten the contours of net neutrality, do visit this post and come back.]

On a post on his Facebook page, Zuck has taken his "internet for the two-third humanity without it" argument to a new level. He says, he is fully committed to net neutrality... he is committed that there should be no domination of internet / web by a few... but it is better to have some internet than no internet, and the net neutrality brigade does not allow that... and any attempt to deny internet-driven information and services to billions who cannot afford internet is not fair... and Internet.org is a global movement towards giving such information and services to the poor for their empowerment. 

Zuck says, net neutrality and efforts like Internet.org can and must co-exist, for the benefit of internet as well as the deprived humanity.


#NetNeutrality is a buzzword on the net, thanks to some telecom operators providing free internet that was tagged with services by some vendors /  organisations. Providing such services (called zero-rating) is supposed to be discriminatory and against competition. Facebook's Internet.org is a huge initiatives spread over many countries, and is seen to be using the plank of 'free net to the needy' for expanding its own base and a possible hegemony over the net.

Facebook now wants to use drones and even a satellite to provide free internet to the have-not population.


As per an authoritative report on internet penetration, only 40% people in the developing world have access to internet, and in Africa, only 20% people have this luxury.

It goes without saying that these underprivileged people need connectivity as early as possible or they will become poorer as they will miss all the empowerment (and opportunities) that internet connectivity gives to the connected ones.

So, to borrow the phrase of Zuckerberg without supporting him, net neutrality and efforts to provide free internet to the needy must go together. On the other hand, though there is no research available to prove whether free net users will favour the services they get free as compared to services provided by others, that is a big possibility.

Some ways the issue could be tackled:
  • Facebook, Google and other tech giants support national efforts towards internet penetration among the poor, without asking for favours in return;
  • Zero rated services are allowed, but with various types of caps on such services; 
  • Classification of zero rated and other free services, according to their benefit to the underprivileged society and compromise of the principle of net neutrality;
  • High level of supervision of zero rated services by national regulatory authorities;
  • Open-ended and short-term decisions/ guidelines on the issue, which are under constant review;
  • Proper disclosures and disclaimers to be displayed on zero rated services to educate users;
  • More research on the implications of zero rated services on user preferences, etc.

October 5, 2015


Santa's Reindeer  

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