SaveTheInternet, a volunteer group comprising of internet users united for net neutrality, has responded to Mark Zuckerberg’s stand on net neutrality. In his town hall address at IIT Delhi on Wednesday, he made clear that he supports net neutrality, but also that zero-rating is not a violation of it. Zuckerberg emphasised how internet.org/Free Basics, his zero-rating platform that provides users free access to certain services, would provide basic access to the poor – an endeavour far more important than a completely neutral Internet.
Also Read: Zuckerberg’s pitch in Delhi: Support net neutrality, but allow free basic Internet for the poor
The response has been posted on their official website, here is what SaveTheInternet had to say -
Mark Zuckerberg’s motives lie in undermining net neutrality in India and questioning the motives of more than a million Indians who participated in the TRAI consultation.
Many internet users have already benefitted from the openness, plurality, and diversity that the Internet has to offer and that more and more people should gain access to the whole of it.
Tim Berners-Lee, one of the founding fathers of the internet, who recently called Zero Rating “Economic Discrimination”, says that it is just as harmful as technical discrimination, so ISPs will still be able to pick winners and losers online.
Internet.org’s policies restrict services that compete with telecom operator services and services like Whatsapp cannot survive on such a platform. Internet.org also reserves the right to reject services that wish to enlist – they need to conform to ‘pre-defined technical limitations’.
Internet.org is not an open platform, and its efforts should be in the creation of one. Currently, the response says, internet.org works toward creating a ‘pre-determined menu’ benefitting those who are selected for the platform.
Facebook and Google are profit-making companies, and they can certainly reap benefits from such services in advancing their own profit motives, especially since their business model has been to offer free services and eventually monetise them.
Zuckerberg spoke about the importance of universal access, and that Net Neutrality can be taken too far. However, there are several examples of services that provide universal access without violating net neutrality.
Qualitative research shows that low income groups prefer a free and unrestricted internet, and do not desire the ‘false choice between Net Neutrality and Access’
Facebook has unlimited access to all the data from all websites on internet.org. This would provide a competitive edge to the social media company.
Free Basics does absolutely nothing to help in getting more users online. It specifies that even though IAMAI has reported an addition of 52 million Internet users, efforts must be made on improving Internet connectivity.
There is need for ‘growing the pie’ and ‘not splitting it’ by creating a new digital divide: those who access Facebook and its partner services and those who access the open Internet.
Everyone can gain access to the whole of the internet without any discrimination and without violating net neutrality. Facebook itself benefitted from this very neutrality. The social media company should instead campaign for the cause in India, the way it has done in the USA.