Facebook won’t withdraw anti-net neutrality platform, to launch low-cost Wi-Fi service

Continuing to show the middle finger to supporters of net neutrality, Facebook says it won’t withdraw Internet.org since it does not violate the principle in any way. On top of this, India’s telecom authorities have taken a confusing stand on the matter since they support Airtel’s controversial zero rating plan even though they are not in favor of Facebook’s ‘internet for all’ platform.

Proponents of net neutrality find Airtel Zero as well as Internet.org disturbing because both act as walled gardens providing users free access only to those sites or apps they wish to promote. Any website can apply to be included on the Facebook platform as long as they don’t feature Flash and Java applets, HTTPS support, videos, iframes, large images, JavaScript and SVG images and WOFF font types. Just ask any small domain owner if they want to spend their precious resources on developing a site that cannot serve ads or even videos.

Internet Org

The thing is, Facebook’s terms and conditions for permitting online portals to join its service is very limiting. Also, Internet.org is only available to Reliance customers in India. The number of websites accessible on the platform is short and includes the aforementioned telecom operator’s Babajob, an employment seeking site inferior to Naukri and Monster. Users cannot search on Google, but will have to make do with Bing. Despite this, Facebook’s Kevin Martin insists that the Facebook initiative is a ‘gateway to access’ the web and not a gatekeeper.

The company is reportedly interested in bringing more mobile operators on board. But no matter how Mark Zuckerberg tries to dress it up, the platform is essentially one big advertisement for Facebook to ensure that those who cannot afford to pay for data won’t stray to any other social network, app or website it (and the service provider involved) does not approve of. Talk about killing competition big time. Want to subsidize access to the web? Whoever’s ‘nobly’ bearing the cost of Internet.org the should instead deliver free/cheaper data to the poor.

Mark Zuckerberg With Narendra Modi

Better still and more practical, why not get people to watch an advertisement to unlock a certain amount of data instead of dictating what parts of the worldwide web they can visit? There are several such alternatives to Internet.org, none of which trample all over net neutrality. Martin says Facebook wants to launch a special Wi-Fi services to subsidize the cost of web access. That would be much more welcome than a walled garden like Internet.org. So would drones or hot air balloons beaming down internet to areas with lack of decent infrastructure.

In this ‘myth-busting’ post, Facebook claims 50 percent of people who join Internet.org are paying for data within 30 days of coming online for the first time once they realize the value of the web. We’re sure they would recognize the value of the internet even better if they were given access to the whole of it at subsidized rates. What are your thoughts on the subject?