Here's why you're wrong, Mr. Zuckerberg

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has defended saying universal connectivity and net neutrality can co-exist.  


In a few developing countries, Facebook has tied up with certain telecom providers to offer their subscribers free access to select Web sites. In India, its partner is Reliance Communications. Such a scheme is referred to as a zero-rating scheme.

When did it launch in India?

February, 2015

How many sites are offered free, and which are these?

Over three dozen. Many are content sites (e.g. Aaj Tak, Times of India, India Today) and some are educational sites (Internet Basics, Wikipedia). The list also includes Facebook, Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and Reliance Astrology.

Why does Facebook want to do this?

Its stated intention is to make available internet to people who don’t have it.

Why is in the news now?

Because it is being accused of violating Net neutrality, public support for which has been overwhelming. Some of its original content partners such as Cleartrip and NDTV have pulled out of the platform after having a rethink on the issue.

What is Net neutrality?

It is the principle that all traffic on the Internet must be treated equally by internet service providers. This has largely been the default mode since Internet started.

What’s Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s defence of in his signed newspaper article?

Essentially that internet.orghelps lower the cost of accessing the internet and also raises the awareness of internet’s value. He uses the word ‘access’ 14 times in the article.

How does an attempt to provide access violate the principle of Net neutrality?

By providing a limited version of the internet, with pre-selected websites, as critics point out, includes Facebook as the centrepiece. This automatically omits a huge part of the internet.

Is there any other problem?

The actors in are all players with commercial intent – Facebook, Reliance, many of the content sites. They have a competitive advantage. And indeed, many of their business models are based on their ability to accumulate bigger audiences. This creates winners and losers, and Facebook gets to make that choice.

What payoff do critics see in this for Facebook?

Internet companies such as Facebook look to keep increasing the number of Internet users. Their revenue models are largely advertising-led. So, more users makes better business sense. And for players such as Facebook, the more developed markets are saturating.

Have there been similar zero-rating schemes?

Yes. Players such as Google, Twitter and Facebook have separately tied up with telecom players to offer their apps free of cost to users. Airtel Zero, which has got itself into a lot of controversy, is also a zero-rating scheme.

What has been the global experience?

Countries such as Chile and Slovenia have banned zero-rating schemes while many European countries are said to be considering such a move.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 3:38:37 PM |

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