New Delhi, April 15:
Joining the debate over unfettered Net access, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday said Internet.org — a platform that offers free access to data and customers and with Reliance Communications as its India partner — can co-exist with net neutrality.
Reliance Communications, part of the Anil Ambani-led group, was been roped in by Facebook recently to offer free access to data and websites to its customers through the social networking site’s global digital inclusion initiative — Internet.org.
Zuckerberg’s comment come at a time when there is a raging debate in India over the issue of net neutrality, with the watchdog, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, calling for comments from all stakeholders, before submitting its recommendations to the government.
“I think net neutrality is important to make sure network operators don’t discriminate and limit access to services people want to use, especially in countries where most people are online,” the Facebook co-founder said.
“For people who are not on the internet though, having some connectivity and some ability to share is always much better than having no ability to connect and share at all. That’s why programmes like Internet.org are important and can co-exist with net neutrality regulations.”
Earlier this week, India’s Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that a panel examining the issue will submit its report by the second week of May to help the government take a comprehensive decision on the contentious issue.
E-commerce giant Flipkart on Tuesday said it is “walking away” from Airtel Zero as it is committed to “the larger cause of net neutrality” but Bharti Airtel said it also fully supported the concept and there was some “misconception” about its toll-free platform.
“We at Flipkart have always strongly believed in the concept of net neutrality, for we exist because of the Internet,” said the e-commerce company in a statement.
“We will be walking away from the ongoing discussions with Airtel for their platform Airtel Zero (An open-marketing platform that allows customers to access a variety of mobile applications for free, with the data charges being paid by the companies owning the application).
“We will be committing ourselves to the larger cause of net neutrality in India. We will be internally discussing over the next few days, the details of actions we will take to support the cause,” the statement added.
Net neutrality means that governments and internet service providers should treat all data on the internet equally — therefore, not charging users, content, platform, site, application or mode of communication differentially. (IANS)