Facebook chief sells zero-rate plans that are against free internet in the name of free access

Mark Zuckerberg in Delhi, he is committed to net neutrality

GN Bureau | October 28, 2015


#Mark Zuckerberg   #New Delhi   #Facebook   #net neutrality  

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is committed to net neutrality. However, in the name of access, he supports zero-rating plans, which are against the principles of free internet. Zero-rating is the concept of providing users access to only a pre-approved set of websites, not the full internet. Facebook's Internet.org, now renamed as Free Basics, operates on the same principle.

About zero-rating, Zuckerberg said, "But to those who advocate against zero-rating: I look at a student who wants free access to the internet for her studies, who gets hurt by that? Around the world, all the regulations are honouring this principle, prioritizing zero-rating is necessary to connect everyone to the internet. Facebook and Internet.org support net neutrality 100%, but we also need to push for access."

 "We have a moral responsibility to look out for those who do not have access to the internet," he said.

At his first townhall event in India at IIT, Delhi, when asked if Facebook supports net neutrality, Zuckerberg said, "absolutely. We do a lot to support net neutrality."

"Internet.org is live in 24 countries around the world, there are 15 million people who have access to the Internet now, who wouldn't have had it otherwise... Internet growth rate is twice as much with Internet.org. This is a program that's working around the world, it works and it will connect more people."

He spoke about "breaking down barriers to availability, affordability, and awareness."  On availability, he said Internet.org will be made more widely available with solar-powered planes to beam down connectivity. Facebook also plans to put satellites in space to provide Internet connectivity.

As for affordability, he said Facebook has been working to make its apps use less data, and now use one tenth the data they used to. Getting to awareness, Zuckerberg added Free Basics allows people to access basic utilities like education, job listings, basic communications, Wikipedia, and tools. "We've found that half of the users who use Free Basics become full paying customers," he said, detailing the benefits for operators.

Answering a question on whether Internet.org supports net neutrality without any filters, Zuckerberg said the company was looking to build an open platform that any developer can build something for. "One of the illusions of Internet.org is that it's a small set of Internet services that people can use, that couldn't be further from the truth. We can provide this Free Basics program, any developer that fits that definition that is text or low bandwidth, or not cannibalising the operator business."

"We are not being a filter to any of the content there. This is an important topic, and we think that it's important that we have regulations to prevent hurt people. If you're a person trying to watch some videos on YouTube or Netflix, and an operator wants to charge for that, that's bad. That's the type of thing we should have regulations against."

Getting to why India is such an important market for Facebook, Zuckerberg said, "If you have a mission to connect every person in the world, you cannot do that without connecting India. It is the largest communities we have across the world. We take responsibility to serve our users in India."

"A billion people do not have access to the Internet yet. It's really a tool that provides vital infrastructure to our life. Health, education, jobs. For every 10 people who get access to the Internet, one person gets lifted out of poverty, and one gets a job... Connecting things in India is one of the most important things we can do for the world. Second biggest community in the world, we really want to get the next billion people online," he said.

He said providing free internet to everyone in the world is expensive and telecom operators spend billions each year bringing internet to users. "What we are really trying to do is to use Free Basics so that any developer who can give low bandwidth services for free can be zero-rated."

If a telecom operator, however, tries to press its own services on the users and it hurts people, then we need net neutrality, Zuckerberg said.

Excerpts from his interaction with the audience:
Everything you could do wrong, I've probably done them. You don't know business, you learn them. You should mistakes deter you. If you do something good you get the strength to power through it. It is not because we didn't make mistakes, but it is because you are doing something powerful.

Research shows that companies which have been launched with more co-founders tend to do better.

There is a little bit of a cultural does this. One person does this, I built Facebook, Steve Jobs built Apple. It doesn't work like this.

Here's the thing, wasn't so long ago I was a student, sitting in a seat listening to Bill Gates when I was at Harvard. The trick is that the media likes to sensationalise this as there was a eureka moment, but that's just not how the world works. In school I built things liked.  Most services in the world that have reached the scale of Facebook, it is a case of building something you care about."

Facebook is giving the people the power to share. Making the world more open and connected. I spent my time on learning about the education system. We've done a few big projects. We stared 5 years ago in Newark. The graduation level has improved by 13 per cent.

We take accessibility features on Facebook very seriously. One of the things we can do now, we can have our AI figure out whats there in the photo. It is not 100 per cent but it will get better.

Facebook working on a solution for a more immersive video experience with the use of Oculus technology.

Now, the Facebook app uses 1/10th of the data it used. It doesn't only cost lesser, it works faster. The programme about free basics is about the basic utilities stuff like education, health, job listings and .

India is Facebook's second largest community. It has more than 130 million users.

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