Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg Tuesday said his company is committed to net neutrality but supported zero-rating plans which have been criticised by many as violative of the principles of free Internet.
Speaking at his first Townhall in India, the young billionaire said the world’s largest social network is working both in terms of supporting regulations around that principle and building an open platform for developers.
When asked if Facebook supports net neutrality, Zuckerberg said: “Absolutely. Net neutrality is important principle. We do a lot to support both in terms of regulation and in our own work building an open platform that any developer can build something for regardless of who they are if they follow the basic rules.”
Facebook’s Internet.Org, which aims to bring free Internet access to the developing world, has faced backlash with activists alleging that it violates network neutrality, the idea that all online traffic should be treated equally.
“Internet.Org and Facebook are 100 per cent supportive of net neutrality, we lobby for it across the world, we build an open platform with no filtering but at the same time we also need to make sure that we continue to push for access,” Zuckerberg said.
On his second visit to India in a year, he was quizzed by some of India’s brightest young minds at a question and answer session at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, as he attempted to deepen Facebook’s links with a country that provides its largest group of users outside the US.
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 (previously known as Internet.Org) so that any developer who can give low bandwidth services for free can be zero-rated. That has been powerful, and provides a neutral platform without any filters,” he said.
If, however, a telecom operator tries to press its own services on the users and it hurts people, then net neutrality is needed, Zuckerberg said, who is learnt to have met Bharti Enterprises CMD Sunil Mittal.
On zero-rating plans of telecom firms like Bharti Airtel, Zuckerberg said: “But to those who advocate against zero- rating I say 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. Prioritising zero-rating is necessary to connect everyone to the Internet. Facebook and Internet.Org support net neutrality 100 per cent, but we also need to push for access.”
Zuckerberg said that many of those pushing for net neutrality already have access to Internet but “the people, who are not yet on the Internet, can’t sign petitions online pushing for increased access”.
He added: “We all have a moral responsibility to look out for those who don’t have access and make sure the rules don’t get twisted to hurt those who don’t have a voice,” he added.
Internet.Org is live in more than 24 countries and 15 million people have access to Internet now with Internet.Org, he said, adding, “That’s a pretty good number… Almost 1 million people in India have access to Internet (through Internet.Org)”.