Universal connectivity, net neutrality can coexist in India: Zuckerberg

"If someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access than none at all", says the Facebook founder.

April 17, 2015 03:45 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 04:38 am IST - New Delhi

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Internet.org summit in New Delhi. File photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Internet.org summit in New Delhi. File photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Days after few of its partners decided to exit Internet.org in support of net neutrality, Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday said he “strongly disagrees” with the critics of the zero-rating concept.

“…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,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

He added, “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.”

Internet.org is social networking site’s initiative to bring internet services to areas that are still not connected in partnership with tech giants like Samsung and Qualcomm. In India, Facebook partnered with Reliance Communications to provide free Internet access to over 30 websites.

The initiative has drawn flak from users and net neutrality activists as they believe it violates the principle of Net Neutrality. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg defended it saying universal connectivity and net neutrality can co-exist.

“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,” he said.

Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should treat all data on the internet equally, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, site, platform, or application. There are no norms for it in the country as of now.

Arguments about net neutrality should not be used to prevent the “most disadvantaged people in society” from gaining access or to deprive people of opportunity, he said, adding that eliminating programs that bring more people online won’t increase social inclusion or close the digital divide.

Following an uproar in the social media over the subject, Cleartrip, Times Group and NDTV had earlier this week opted out of Internet.org.

While the debate has been going on at the global level for a long time, in India it was triggered when country’s largest operator Airtel in December 2014 announced plans to start charging customers for VoIP services, such as Skype and Viber.

The debate gained national momentum when telecom regulator TRAI, in a first step towards making regulating the issue, came out with consultation paper inviting user comments on the subject.

Recently, Airtel announced another initiative Airtel Zero, for which it received a lot of flak as this too is seen as violating net neutrality.

Also read: >Net neutrality: nuts and bolts

Net neutrality

Net neutrality is a principle that says Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all traffic and content on their networks equally.

How does net neutrality affect you?

The internet is now a level-playing field. Anybody can start up a website, stream music or use social media with the same amount of data that they have purchased with a particular ISP. But in the absence of neutrality, your ISP might favour certain websites over others for which you might have to pay extra. Website A might load at a faster speed than Website B because your ISP has a deal with Website A that Website B cannot afford. It’s like your electricity company charging you extra for using the washing machine, television and microwave oven above and beyond what you are already paying.

Key Players

  • like Airtel, Vodaphone, Reliance...
  • The which lays down the rules for telecom companies
  • The like Facebook, Google, whatsapp and other smaller startups
  • You, the consumer

Why now?

Late last month, TRAI released a draft consultation paper seeking views from the industry and the general public on the need for regulations for over-the-top (OTT) players such as Whatsapp, Skype, Viber etc, security concerns and net neutrality. The objective of this consultation paper, the regulator said, was to analyse the implications of the growth of OTTs and consider whether or not changes were required in the current regulatory framework.

What is an OTT?

OTT or over-the-top refers to applications and services which are accessible over the internet and ride on operators’ networks offering internet access services. The best known examples of OTT are Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, e-commerce sites, Ola, Facebook messenger.


  • »>The importance of net neutrality: Should the Internet be touched? That’s one way to summarise the twenty questions the TRAI has asked the public in a recent consultation paper.
  • »>Blow for Net neutrality: Flipkart had to contain the fallout after Airtel Zero was severely criticised by the proponents of Net neutrality, the principle that all Internet traffic has to be treated equally.
  • » Live Chat: >For a neutral net The Hindu conducted a live chat on how does net neutrality affects users.


>Privileging telcos over netizens: The sort of closed Internet that TRAI is proposing, in defiance of the principle of net neutrality, is no longer on the discussion agenda in any country.


> Raising voice over net neutrality: Sanjay Vijayakumar writes, Fierce battles lie ahead as it is a vital issue for service providers and OTT firms.

> Net neutrality debate rages: While Airtel has put out a statement on the pull out by Flipkart, other operators are playing a cautious game, write Lalatendu Mishra and Pradeesh Chandran

> Net neutrality: Nuts and bolts: Read this article for a look at net neutrality and the controversy surrounding the issue.

> Fully support net neutrality, says Airtel: Airtel Zero has come under attack with critics terming it as an attempt to restrict ‘free’ internet access and against the net neutrality.

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