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Blow to Internet.org as Indian Internet Companies Begin to Withdraw (huffingtonpost.in)
602 points by nileshtrivedi on April 15, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 195 comments



After limited protest/outrage in communities like /r/india, the news finally hit big when a comedy group AIB decided to make a video explaining what Net Neutrality is: https://youtu.be/mfY1NKrzqi0 and then it finally hit mainstream media. Amid pressure from everywhere, Flipkart finally withdrew from the Airtel Zero deal which would have been a blow to Net Neutrality in India.

Of course, next step was Internet.org and similar initiatives, which on paper sound like a fantastic idea until you look deeper and begin to see the NN violation problem. This is welcome news indeed. Btw, this was Zuckerburg's response when posed this question: https://i.imgur.com/PAwf6e3.png "Some connectivity is better than no connectivity, hence the violation of NN is justified"

Last few days have been a mixture of anxiousness and excitement. :)


"Btw, this was Zuckerburg's response when posed this question: https://i.imgur.com/PAwf6e3.png"

Bullshit. Facebook cannot become AOL (which is what all the platforms desperately want to become) unless they can vertically integrate with the network.

They cannot currently do that in the US and most of the global north because of antitrust and the growing support and knowledge of net neutrality (thanks, Tim[1]).

But maybe they can get away with it in the global south ... plenty of market share there ...

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Wu#The_Master_Switch


Lots of factors at play here. Till a few months ago, India didn't even have a competition commission. We have no anti-trust laws.

You also have to understand the history of telecom in India, especially the Value-Added-Services on mobile. They killed startups ( http://rashmiranjanpadhy.com/2015/04/12/airtel-kills-startup... ), they activated services without users' consent and so on. Can you imagine how big this fraud was in India where 40% of the people are not even literate? It was plain and simple fraud.

Everyone and his uncle learned to curse the telcos in that era. Now they're coming for the web, disparagingly calling it "Over-The-Top services".


India has a Competition Commission since 2002.

http://www.cci.gov.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view...


Denzil - we have bodies and committees for every thing but no action takes place. Our CCI is a joke. There is no anti-trust. And less said about our courts & justice system the better.

Just a small eg: Satyam chief, Ramalingam Raju, picked up the phone and gave himself in to SEBI (US version of SEC) confessing to financial fraud of INR 4000 crores+ massive job losses, massive losses/harakiri in pension/taxes owed to the govt (due to inflated employee #) to the extent of he had one of the big4 auditors in his pocket who signed over falsified bank balance statements. This resulted in govt having to take over the co and auctioning it out to TechMahindra. At the time Satyam was the #3 Software services company in India by sheer revenue and employee size. Raju gave detailed proofs of each of his wrongdoings ("when he could not ride this tiger anymore") and yet it took our courts 7 years + to impose a rap-on-knuckles 7 years of imprisonment and 5 crores of fines. An amount which he could've made bamboozled off in one day of stock manipulation on the exchanges.

So my point is it's one thing to have all these fancy bodies and titles and quite another to have them act on anything.

This recent action against zero-rated apps by one of our telcos, Airtel, is a heartening move which ofcourse morphed into heat brought upon FB's internet.org which is a bigger culprit on net neutrality front.

Way to go online activism in India! (Disclosure: I'm a member of the #SaveTheInternet volunteer group)


Quick note on numbers:

"Crore" means 10 million (it's a modifier like "hundred" or "thousand" and does not necessarily relate to money).

10 000 000 Indian rupees = 160 310 U.S. dollars


I do understand that most of these bodies are toothless but we do have a CCI. The parent comment mentioned that we don't have one and I thought I would mention the fact that we do. As we speak, the CCI seems to be probing Indian telecoms.

http://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/cc...

I'm not in favor of zero rating or violations of net neutrality as we know it.

Disclosure : I'm a passive member of the #SaveTheInternet volunteer group (anonymously) too. I really appreciate your efforts and work. I am trying to tell all my colleagues and friends about you guys. Keep going!


These commissions are set up here, only after someone from a global body like UN, World Bank, IMF etc complains about their absence.


oh well ...hello! :-) and sorry I kinda took a shortcut to the assumption that you were not an Indian.


Thanks. I must have confused it with some amendment regarding competition commission.


> Facebook cannot become AOL (which is what all the platforms desperately want to become) unless they can vertically integrate with the network.

Maybe you could also interpret the backlash against Zero/AOL as an indication that customers do not want corporations regulating their access to information. So perhaps network carriers should think twice about aiming for a captive audience with "vertical integration".


This is their plan exactly. However, we have been able to get 6 out of 39 brands to pull their support back. Hopefully, tomorrow we will see even better support!


I just bought the book. Sounds like a very nice read. Thanks.


> Btw, this was Zuckerburg's response when posed this question: https://i.imgur.com/PAwf6e3.png "Some connectivity is better than no connectivity, hence the violation of NN is justified"

That is not a literal quote. Here is the actual quote from that image -

"For people who are not on the internet though, having some connectivity and some ability to share is always much better than no ability to connect and share at all. That's why programs like Internet.org are important and can co-exist with net neutrality regulations."


My bad, I paraphrased the implications of the comment.


Presenting it as a direct quote is intellectually dishonest. Please don't use that kind of manipulation here, even if you think your cause warrants it.


In case you didn't notice, I also pasted the exact statement he gave as a screenshot. I only see an honest mistake (which was really just having the quotes around the thing -- I can't edit it otherwise I would have) instead of intellectual dishonesty. But thanks for the lesson.


I was a little hasty jumping on your previous post. Thanks for the clarification.


Another great Zuckerburg quote for the internet history books..


That video is wonderful. Anyone know of a video that outlines the importance of net neutrality as it pertains to America? This video covers the core idea excellently, but some of the details are very specific to India and their struggle with neutrality. I'd love to have something to show people that think Neutrality is some government overstep. But I feel like they'd be too distracted by the fact that it's not specifically discussing the new American laws (which is stupid, I know).


Did you not see the John Oliver segment? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpbOEoRrHyU


Nope, don't watch TV and never saw it popup on my subreddits or facebook wall. Thanks!


A website that explains the importance of Net Neutrality, in general.

http://www.theopeninter.net


> https://i.imgur.com/PAwf6e3.png "Some connectivity is better than no connectivity, hence the violation of NN is justified"

Does he really not see the enormous liability that a precedent like this can create?


actually the problem comes from the profit seeking companies. The original intention was provide help to the poor people who can't afford it. I remember wikipedia and some other non profit companies were initially interested in providing this for free. As far as I know aircel still provides it for free. It not just in India though many countries like Russia Indonesia also offer something. The situation changes when you have profit seeking companies trying utilise the situation. Cleartrip response exposes this perfectly.


The precedent already exists, at least here in Australia. Luckily it hasn't caused too many problems thus far, but whether that is merely an outlier remains to be seen.


To clarify for the global audience: (most) broadband in Australia is metered, so back when ADSL started getting big, ISP's would offset 14GB bandwidth cap with 'free zone' content - data which is unmetered. This still continues today, the most recent competitive offering is unmetered Netflix - http://www.optus.com.au/netflix

Which, the latest news is that Netflix regrets signing these deals in the first place http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2015/04/netflix-regrets-signing-un...


Wow, there are actual countries with bandwidth cap and privileged content for Home Internet? Damn, I thought that was just the hypothetical scarecrow of NN defenders =/


eh. It's something that made sense over ten years ago. Very little content was hosted locally within Australia so most traffic had to go over the expensive links to other countries (which are obviously constrained in bandwidth). Privileged/unmetered content was often things like local Steam mirrors or whatnot which was closer to the user/ISP.

Now that more and more content is cached locally, there's less and less of a need for it both bandwidth caps and privileged content.


But then why didn't they give you a shitty bandwidth when you try to access such remote content? That would be fair game, instead of capping the global data transferred over a month..


Aren't video games really expensive there for no reason?


Video Games, Songs on iTunes, Internet, Phone Services... The list goes on, pretty much everything is expensive over here, even digital products with zero shipping or handling costs are triple or more the price in the US. For example I pay $70/month for 200GB of 'broadband' that peaks at 500kb/s and is totally incapable of streaming video. My mobile phone costs $95/month and I get 5GB of data.


There is a bigger picture you're not aware of that is in play here.

Zuckerberg is providing free internet to millions.


Except providing free access to Facebook is not "free internet." It is just free Facebook (and whatever related services). It is not truly "the internet" if it is restricted to Facebook (and associated services).


Better no internet than facebook? Sounds cynic.


Better just internet.

It's like McDonald's building "free" roads that you can use to reach McDonald's, but if you want to go anywhere else you have to pay tolls. It is unbelievably self-serving and for Zuckerburg to dissemble on that point is wildly disingenuous.

"Well, at least they can reach McDonald's" is not a good argument against just building roads and letting people drive wherever.


I like this analogy with roads because land like wireless spectrum is a very finite resource especially at the last mile.

Personally, I wish there was a better scheme to allocate precious wireless spectrum other than giving a 100 year license to the highest bidder in an auction. (Whether the auction is rigged or not is besides the point.)

We talk about common carrier when it comes to wireline communication but why can't we do the same for wireless?

I don't know about others but it sickens me to think that we consider it an achievement to raise a couple of billion dollars for granting exclusive license to prime low frequency spectrum to Cingular/Verizon. Wouldn't it be better if wireless carriers didn't have to fight over who has the least bad coverage? There has to be a better way...


To me it sounds like McDonalds sending out a free shuttle bus to pick you up, but the shuttle only takes you to McDonalds (and not Wendy's or whatever). This actually exists with things like free hotel airport shuttles.


But you're assured you've just seen the entire city and you're done and can go back now.


well, there is also an alternative road where you always pay toll, no matter where you wanna go, so most people from the village have never gone out.

Also, to be in good books McDonalds is giving access to school and hospital also for free.


There are ways to provide free internet to millions, while NOT compromising on neutrality or providing convenient network leverage to Facebook and Reliance to pick winners.

How is X megabytes / month for free but with ads (this is network neutral) not better than Internet.org's current model? Why not let those millions decide which are the essential internet services for them? Do the poor millions don't deserve choice?

Let the user chose for himself. How hard can this be?


> with ads

Why ads? Facebook would be providing internet.org for free, right? If the goal is getting more people on the internet, then internet.org could provide unfettered access to the internet and still reach their goal. However, if the aim is to get more people on their platform and increase Facebook's bottom line, then the goal is about manipulating one of the most disenfranchised people.

A way out for the zero rated schemes and internet.org is to sponsor bandwidth for the end user. The telecom service providers could offer 100mb per month free to the end users and bill internet.org et al for the service.


If you provide free capped connections to the end-users (with selected services not counting toward the cap), that would be a totally different discussion indeed.

But that's not the case here.


This is not about choice. (.. or we would appreciate the option to browse facebook for free.)

It's about net neutrality. Unconnected people in India shouldn't destroy the bad impression we associated with this policy in the first place.


No, what he's doing is providing free Facebook so that his user base increases, so he has more people's privacy to exploit, mine for data, and then sell to the highest bidder.


Popular support for net neutrality rallied at the last minute by comedians, eh? Comments sent en masse to a regulatory body? Sounds familiar! Hopefully the result will be the same.


With any luck we'll also turn out to be a campaign to be remembered. :)


In some ways I agree with Zuckerburg here, except that I don't think Facebook (or any other privately held company) should be the one to do it. An initiative to bring the Internet to people who cannot afford it or are so remote they are out-of-touch with modern economies should be done by the public sector and/or charities.

Besides, I fail to see how this sort of thing would even be technically feasible. If you can provide some connection to the Internet, you can provide connections to all of the Internet, yes?


I was against this zero movement from the start. I'm really happy to see that it is started to be seen as anti-NN. Wishing for Turkey Operators to pull out too.


All said and done, there's still no point in all this report unless TRAI/Government pull their socks up and make net neutrality a reality by law.


Wow, the mask really came off on that one.


What is the source of that Constine/Zuckerberg exchange?


The latest Q&A session he did on his page. https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10102028100357421


what is the source of that Constine/Zuckerberg exchange?


Today was phenomenal. The campaign has sent more than 620,000 email to TRAI (Indian equivalent of FCC) who wanted public opinion on whether Internet (or as they say, "Over-the-top services") should be regulated or not.

Cleartrip showed courage in being the first one to opt out of Internet.org. A few more soon followed.

Tomorrow could be amazing!

Edit: Very similar to US, comedians played a pivotal role in popularizing this issue. Here is the video that went viral: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfY1NKrzqi0


Thanks for doing this, guys :)


Glad to see so many come companies onboard!


One thing to note is that there's no EFF like organisation and this is mostly done by volunteers [1].

This has also been largest response to any consultation by Indian government having received 600K+ responses through campaign sites[2][3]. Previous highest was 20000 mails in 1999.

[1]: Disclaimer: I am associated and helping the group.

[2]: http://savetheinternet.in/ People can submit response here.

[3]: http://netneutrality.in/ Info site.

Edit: Corrected URL #3.


It's important to keep in mind that telco's arguments, that they are losing money or finding it hard to recover their investment costs, have been thoroughly debunked: http://capitalmind.in/2015/04/telecom-companies-are-not-losi...


The original consultation paper also had similar figures. I don't remember correctly but telcos are expected to lose $400 billion from call and SMS decline by 2020. However, they are expected to earn $1.2 trillion from data growth.


Imagine what number would that $1.2 trillion blow up to, if they have it their way of zero-rated apps and differential rating. The TRAI has been clearly unabashedly lobbying on television media for telcos. Isn't the "Telecom Regulatory Authority of India" supposed to act in the benefits of consumer!?


>>Isn't the "Telecom Regulatory Authority of India" supposed to act in the benefits of consumer!?

Ideally yes, but like every other Government institution in India these people are neck deep in corruption[New term: Lobbying].

The key issue is, telcos realize they are being reduced to mere data pipe suppliers and on the long term[May be a few years] their margins will drop like stone falling in a pit. They are being disrupted through software apps[Calls and SMS going through apps like Viber/Skype/Whatsapp]. So while data growth will happen for a while, post that they will be nothing more than data pipe suppliers.

This will just ensure massive flattening of positions in the market. Don't be surprised if BSNL does better than these people in that kind of a world. Because it will be all about infrastructure, and with a unlimited government funding, these people lose out against BSNL if all they will remain is data pipe suppliers.

These people once heralded as champions of free market economy and capitalism now want the government to bail them out with regulations in their favor. This was exactly the cry of all PSU's in the 90's when the government wanted to bring in privatization big time.

This is all about software disruption. These people disrupted BSNL's business, Now there business is being disrupted.

Funny how capitalism works when you are at the receiving end.


Projected figures after 5 years? I'd like to see some source on this information please.

I know they'll make up for in data, but $1.2 trillion?


Quote from consultation paper, page 34 [1]

Globally, the overall revenues in the telecom/ICT sector are expected to continue rising because of growth in users, traffic and applications. Even though there may be a loss of up to 6.9 per cent in cumulative voice revenues (representing $479 billion) because of OTT services, the total revenue for TSPs is likely to grow to $2.4 trillion in 2019 from $2.1 trillion in 2014

I was way off base. :)

[1] Consultation paper: http://www.trai.gov.in/WriteReaddata/ConsultationPaper/Docum...


Having no organization like EFF is something that needs to be fixed. Depending on volunteers for such activity may not always be feasible in long term fights like this. #Sec66A fight took 3 years of dedication by many individuals to reach some conclusion and we can be sure many such fights will come in future. https://wethegoondas.in/ is such issue which still hasnt got enough attraction. Are there efforts in forming a non-profit organization which will work on such issues on long term basis. Crowd funding for the same when the issue in limelight seems to be the best thing if we have committed people coming forward to work and lead the organization.


> Having no organization like EFF is something that needs to be fixed.

I think the closest organization to EFF that India has is the Centre for Internet & Society (CIS). Though, the aim of CIS isn't about digital civil rights like EFF. It is more to study Internet related policy with respect to India. Many times, CIS does take similar stands to that of EFF would given the situation.

http://cis-india.org


Because there is no tradition of funding civil society organisations in India, CIS is mostly foreign-funded. That puts them under the purview of FCRA, which means they are explicitly forbidden from lobbying and politics, at risk of having their funding cut off. They necessarily have to limit themselves to policy research.

CIS is not and will never be the EFF of India until the FCRA rules change. We need another organisation.


Are there not enough people interested in this type of thing today in India to try to start an EFF equivalent?


In long term, yes this needs to be fixed. However, this time, the voluteers kept most of the stuff low profile. As of now, I am not aware of any non-profit organization like this. Maybe this is something that can be done after this debate settles down.


And the previous one was for the telcos too. http://cis-india.org/telecom/resources/new-telecom-policy-19...


Thank you Ishan!


Facebook's internet.org plan to be somewhat hypocritical, given their (correct) stand in favor of net neutrality in the US.

internet.org isn't about the internet at all - it's more a proprietary network similar to Compuserve or AOL.

It's the same brand of philanthropy that Microsoft practices when it offers discounted Windows and Office to schools.


I'd say Facebook's moves here are more sinister than Microsoft's (or Apple's - they do the same thing). In the MS/Apple cases, it's simply about pushing product. In FB's case it's about pulling up the ladder after they've climbed it (balkanized Internet means dominant services like FB stay dominant).

After the fwd.us debacle and now this, why should anyone trust Zuck and Facebook in terms of "philanthropy"?


It really isn't surprising for anyone who has read his history that he is not a very moral person.

He made the precursor to Facebook by hacking servers and stealing people's pictures.

Then he lied to the Winklevoss twins that he would build their website for them to stall them for as long as he could so he could release Facebook before them.


Exactly.


What is the difference between this service and the free busses at the airport that only take you to a certain hotel or car rental offices or say cheap chartered air flights sponsored by a casino and of course packaged with the casino stay? I consider myself 100% pro-NN but I'm having a hard time resolving these analogies.


Yep.


Internet.org is offering a free service to people who would otherwise have no access to the Internet. Net neutrality on a free service in a developing country is an entirely different issue than net neutrality in developed countries with high Internet access rates.

I see similarities between this and GMO in developing countries, where rich, well fed people in developed countries oppose gmo in countries that can't feed themselves because "corporations evil".

People for whom Internet access is a normal part of society are in an ivory tower on this issue.


If internet.org was really about providing internet access to people who otherwise can't access it, what is stopping Facebook from making it open? In current form lets say internet.org allows access to 100+ websites. I assume speed will be slow anyways. So make it open. Speed and data cap will be a deterrent for people wanting to abuse the platform (and things like torrent etc can be blocked anyways)

But I guess that will not serve facebook's interests. As an Indian, I actually prefer no internet at all compared to a moderated list that I am allowed to access. The way things are moving - Govt. has to act to provide internet in India for the last mile consumers anyways. With curated access there is a danger of wanting to maintain status quo because that kind of access - checks a tickbox.


I believe the price is stopping it. Getting a telco to give you massively reduced rates on a few domains is drastically different than paying for internet access for everybody. Also, please correct me if I am mistaken, but I.org doesn't prevent you actually paying for full internet access?


They could put data caps. They could support it with ads. Both of which give neutral access to full open internet. If it has to be _few_ domains only, they could let the user chose his preferred domains on the 1st of every month.

But no, they want to sell the poor out to the highest bidders.


adding ads will just make the already slow internet slower. loading content + ads is not good for the customer.


Only if the ads are loaded in parallel with the content. The ads can very well be like TV or YouTube ads.


There is nothing more costly about providing open internet than closed internet. If you only look at certain domains, those domains will subsidize the price. It's pushing two things unnecarily into one. It's like, if you can pay for internet if you sell your kidney, then saying internet access with kidneys is too expensive.


You should read Cleartrip's statement when they exited internet.org today. Especially, this bit: "So while our original intent was noble, it is impossible to pretend there is no conflict of interest (both real and perceived) in our decision to be a participant in Internet.org."

The protests are not against free data at all. Internet.org could have very well given 100megabytes/month free. They could support it with ads, which is perfectly neutral, if they wanted.

Saying that "the poor don't/can't make the right choice for themselves so let us chose for them" - now, THAT IS ivory tower thinking.


I am happy that the service providers in India will continue forth expanding into poor and under-serviced areas without a large subsidy to free them of cost-benefit decisions.

I'm sure they will operate in the best interest of the public.


That's what competition does. :)


I don't want to argue with you since I don't know much about it, but it seems the backlash came from India itself, not from developed countries.


India has plenty of its own middle-class neck beards who don't see why their cleaners, taxi drivers, and street sweepers need Facebook access.


While I think open access to the Internet probably should probably be considered a human right, it's not on the same tier in Maslow's pyramid as the right to not starve.

As for opposing GMOs -- one needs to consider why certain countries "can't feed themselves", and if maybe food cartels might have something to do with it.

For the record, I'm deeply sceptical to GMOs for two reasons: 1) I don't think allowing patent on life/genes to be a good idea -- and find the idea that you're not allowed to plant crops you buy (eg: not being legally allowed to plant a potato, because you didn't buy it "with intent to plant", but paid the "lower" price for "intent to consume") -- or not being able to because of second generation being sterile -- 2) I worry about the pesticides, the interplay between evolution (super bugs), monoculture etc.

[ed: To add: I think the choice between starve like now, and be forever beholden to foreign corporations and their patents is a false choice. Similarly, I think no Internet like now, and be beholden to Facebook is a false choice too.

Setting up local (eg: village-size) mesh-nets, allowing intranets to form, and then slowly connecting those to the bigger Internet, should be entirely viable. Allow for free text (xmpp), voice (sip etc) as well as browsing (maybe initially favouring usenet groups, as that is resilient and works well on low bandwidth links) -- and allow it to grow organically. No need to try and bootstrap straight to the first-world, balkanized Internet of lobotomized, centralized, content-silo-oriented services...]


I think you're going on an irrelevant tangent with GMOs; the OP simply used the argument as a comparison not to prop up a soapbox for you to recite your GMO views.


This is nothing like the GMO debate.

GMOs are not giving a curated list of seeds away for free to make the farmers dependent on them.

GMOs sell their product like every body else in the free market.


Not true. Monsanto "donates" seeds to Haiti


The Indian regulator's egregiously biased consultation paper (which sparked this protest) has been exposed on reddit as being written by the telecom industry's lobbyist:

https://www.reddit.com/r/india/comments/32o00z/proof_the_tra...

Apparently they even doctored an alleged quote from The Economist, inserting text that was not in the original article, to make it more biased towards operators.


Wow! That's unbelievable! I hope the media takes TRAI to the task on this.


Can someone give me a good argument as to why no internet is better than free limited internet with facebook + google search + wikipedia?

If Facebook will provide free limited internet (and as always, you can pay regularly to get full internet access) for a lot of basic service, it only seems reasonable they will package their facebook and messenger apps as well.

On the whole, do you think internet.org is a bad, negative effort?


Because it's the opposite of net neutrality. It's picking winners and losers. If Facebook is free, but you have to pay for local home grown Indian social networking sites, well then how will those businesses ever compete?

Personally, I'm torn. I'm all for free access to Wikipedia. The problem is, not all of the world's knowledge exists there, so you therefor are only giving people a taste of knowledge.

With Facebook and Google, you are choosing the silos for people, and making it very very difficult for competitors. And without competition, localized monopolies tend to stagnate, which ultimately hurts consumers.


I see the argument for competition, but I don't think that freedom is as important as the freedom of communication and education.

Imagine someone in the slums of India (there are tens of millions in these conditions) wanting to learn more about irrigation. Is it more important that they have no limited internet for the sake for competition, or limited internet?


Fair enough. But consider the fact that there ARE alternative solutions and internet.org is not the most optimal.

Why not give X megabytes/month data to the user for free and let HIM chose what the "essential internet services" for HIM are? Internet.org is a non-profit so it would be completely fine giving it for free. But even if they wanted to recover their costs, they could do it in a neutral manner - by ads.

Even with your premise accepted, there are better solutions. Internet.org's current model makes sense only when you consider the ulterior motives as well.


Neither is important if they have offline-cached copies of Wikipedia (all the content of which is readily available for download and made available under a CC-BY-SA / GNU GFDL dual-license), which can then be distributed on optical media, thumb drives, or some other relatively-inexpensive data distribution medium.

This is something that's totally compatible with net neutrality while providing the same benefits you're advocating.


Poor people in India have cheap smartphones but they dont have PCs so optical media, thumb drives are useless to them.


Old PCs are actually much cheaper nowadays than even the cheapest smartphones of equivalent computing power, and typically include more than enough storage space for the entirety of Wikipedia. One shared PC in a community would solve that problem right quick.

Even without that, thumb drives are usable with smartphones via OTG cables.



Funny thing is, people could probably use Wikipedia to fulfil all the functions that Facebook fulfils for users (not the function it fulfils for Facebook/advertisers).

I could see pages used as public group walls, profile pages as personal walls, "discuss"-pages as discussion. Only thing missing is "private" chat/pages -- but a browser-plugin with support for OTR/GPG (encrypt to many recipients...) could fix that, and be way more secure/private than Facebook...


This is not a black and white scenario as you have characterized or how Mark Z has characterized.

As more and more people come out of poverty, they will be able to access basic services such as water, electricity and data plans. There is no reason why data plans is the only service among the three services that needs to be free. If it is free, it is the government that should provide it rather than private corporations whose single interest is profit.

Now, people who are super poor may not be able to pay for electricity let alone will access free internet.

Either way, FB and bunch of other companies want to profit out of the people who are uninformed and these people may end up buying only services and products from those limited free websites that they get from free internet.

It also looks like the telecom services might take advantage of this and partner with some companies provide selective access to some websites and the biggest losers of this kind of partnership could be companies that dont have enough capital to pay each of the telecom providers to be in their "basic package"


If facebook is feeling so generous they can provide a few mb of usage free instead of free access to facebook.



> On the whole, do you think internet.org is a bad, negative effort?

I don't know, but I can conceive of it as a possibility that Internet.org would hinder the propagation of NN "real internet" providers.


>>why no internet is better than free limited internet with facebook + google search + wikipedia?

Eventually these companies will work towards making internet difficult to access so their own sites can have the monopoly.

Internet isn't impossible to provide eventually every one will have access. But to do it this way will create problems which takes decades to solve.


Actually, if they only provide Facebook services, one might argue that they are not providing Internet connectivity at all; they're providing Facebook.


They can change the model to give a fixed amount of data for free, instead of picking a bunch of sites, breaking NN. I doubt it will happen.


The only reason why Mark Zuckerberg is bold enough to make irrational statements about the benevolence of Internet.org is the lack of such strong opposition. I hope India becomes a model for the world in this issue.


I'm currently writing a series of posts dissecting the damning TRAI consultation paper (115 pages long).

You can follow that at http://www.zodvik.com/2015/04/15/damn-trai-paper-1/ and contact me if you feel there are improvements to be made (or submit them via PR)


Very good for India that they finally realized what facebook plans to do, which is have all the next Billion people coming online having free access to its site and therefore increase its revenue on Ads and other means. Its absolutely unacceptable any government sign up on this, this defeats the entire idea of internet being open to everyone. Last week Mr. Zuckerberg met with the Brazilian President to announce that he intends to bring this to a number of places in Brazil, and the dumb idiot(Brazilian President) was all proud to be announcing that she is making another American billionaire even more billionaire by delegating the work that should be done by her government. I really hope that this "partnership" of them won't last too long, otherwise facebook will have even more leverage and power, than they already have, over anyone who wants to build products that may compete with their apps for consumer's time.


Zuckerberg's sly attempt to sneak in free Facebook through Internet.org not gonna work in India.


Oh no! Giving something away for free! The travesty!


This seems a bit naive. The argument is definitely more nuanced than this. For example, Tim Berners Lee has slammed zero-rating as well: http://inform.tmforum.org/news/2015/02/net-neutrality-compro...


Internet.org is currently offered on only one carrier (Reliance) and this is a clear net neutrality violation. Even if it were offered on all carriers, this is a violation. Also, this is hypocritical since FB supports NN in US!

What's worse is that some companies are using this as an example to push for legalisation of zero rating. This is worsened by our regulator's stancce which is pro telecom companies.


Even worse is that a lot of decision makers in our country's administration can be misled into accepting the practice as digital status quo, because a large company like facebook says so.


Do you mean if it were offered on ALL platforms, it wouldn't be a violation?


@miteshashar Typed it too fast I guess. Will correct.


Sometimes preventing fragmentation of the network is more important. A mobile operator can't, for instance, use licensed spectrum to run a service that doesn't interoperate with others or with emergency services - even if it's free.

If Verizon were to sign up for this, it would fall foul of FCC's rules too (it is clearly paid prioritization when all websites that don't pay are blocked.) It's not for nothing that net neutrality laws in a bunch of countries (Chile, the Netherlands, Brazil and probably a few more) explicitly forbid zero-rating.


FB will love for "the next billion" to be in the walled garden internet of FB. More people to advertise to, no competition.


There is no such thing as a free lunch!


Precisely, which is why we're opposed to telcos scamming users with free lunches.


Happy that someone wrote about this. We don`t need Facebook's walled garden. It is surprising to see "Wikipedia" aka champion of free speech part of internet.org.


If a company wanted to provide aid and give away food, we don't claim that it is creating an unfair market for the local food industry.

If Wikipedia want to give away free access to information, suddenly its an unfair advantage in the market of free information?


> If a company wanted to provide aid and give away food, we don't claim that it is creating an unfair market for the local food industry.

Actually some do claim that:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/14/world/americas/14iht-food....

edit: In case you are hit by the paywall,

> Charity finds that U.S. food aid for Africa hurts instead of helps, Celia W. Dugger, 2007-08-14


The difficulty in analogies like this (and other arguments against net neutrality, such as saying partnerships between Facebook and network companies are the equivalent of promotional marketing or bundling) is that controlling the availability of specific sites or apps on a network inherently introduces bias in the network. So this is like an organization that gives away food creating roads that only they and their partners can use, given a government license to build roads (the same way network companies have a government license to build on the wireless spectrum and other channels.)


Because the access to information is extremely constrained. The Internet is much bigger than just wikipedia. There have been studies which showed that people in such situations who used these so called "Free services" didn't even realize they were actually a part of the much bigger Internet, and just considered them standalone. I guess a similar situation would be people in the old days thinking AOL was synonymous with the Internet.

Do you want to live in a world where your access to information is constrained to one site only?


Give the choice between that and no internet (Wikipedia alone could be transformative, conditional on literacy), then yes, I'd probably make that choice.

Its not ideal, but marrying the commercial incentives of telcos to get people paying for data and the gateway drug of free access seems more likely to get more people connected faster than anything else.


The company owns the food. Wikipedia doesn't own the Internet or the information.


Wikipedia is a global encyclopedia run by the non-profit Wikimedia foundation, Facebook is an ad-serving, for-profit social network.

So I would argue that Wikipedia is the perfect candidate for such a program, and Facebook the worst.


> Wikipedia is the perfect candidate for such a program

Except for the high likelihood of having a pop over of Jimmy Wales asking for money show up on all your content.


Which is preferable to the current model of your-and-my-data-and-eyeballs-to-advertisers-as-a-service


That doesn't make sense. Zero-rating does not, as far as I know, inject ads into your other content. If you don't want to access Wikipedia you needn't see his popover.


Yes, many people are arguing the same. But I don't think the conclusion is foregone. Wikimedia has been criticized as well: https://www.accessnow.org/blog/2014/08/08/wikipedia-zero-and...


Net Neutrality supporters have their priorities out of whack when they attack Wikipedia for getting free zero rating.

Net neutrality is a means to an end, not the end itself. And wiki being available to millions or billions of people for free doesn't threaten the "open internet."


Wikipedia's charter requires them to increase access to Wikipedia, so signing up for internet.org was the right thing to do as long as it is not illegal. Let's put them aside for now and focus on the others.


Maybe this should cause some hard thinking about what Wikipedia's interests are, and who actually ends up with editorial authority at Wikipedia.


Would you feel the same way about Facebook installing "Facebook PCs" for free use of Facebook, say in every Starbucks?


Can somebody explain what is going on here? I'm having trouble understanding what this story is about.


Facebook and mobile-phone companies in India got together to try a project.

The project aimed to provide cheap internet access... only to their "approved" websites. Anything else requires more money from the customer... Or perhaps money from the companies whose websites are blocked.

People are starting to realize/acknowledge that the arrangement is a bit of an anti-competitive conflict of interest with a tinge of "pay us or we'll block you" extortion.


basically there was plan to give away "free internet" to people. But free here are basically the services of companies that have ulterior motives behind this. Its not really free except calling it that way.


It is surprising that both Flipkart and Times Group pulled out of Facebook's initiative, but unsurprising that they pulled out in tandem. Both Flipkart and Times Group have taken multi-million dollar investments from early Facebook employees and some even sit on their board. They must have really felt the heat to take such an action. Ironically, a lot of awareness in India around net-neutrality spread through WhatsApp and Facebook!


>>It is surprising that both Flipkart and Times Group pulled out of Facebook's initiative

They were counting on people's sentiments to fall for free services/products. They realized it could back fire big time. That 'we are for net neutrality' argument is plain B.S. They are making a virtue out of compulsion.

Flipkart has a string of screw up's off late. The Xiaomi flash sale, the big billion dollar sale, other price related issues.

They are already falling out of fashion. Last thing they need is to perceived as a 'yet another baniya company'.


Apparently Times Group hasn't really pulled out. They have announced that they will, provided their competition pledges to do the same.


They've completely pulled out for some services and conditionally for some others.


I think http://savetheinternet.in did really save Internet from the stupid regulators who have absolutely no clue of technological implications of what the Big and dominant ISPs are doing to the freedom and Net Neutrality.

Indian ISPs are too opportunistic to divert the subject from Quality of Service to Issues to making more buck than what they are really worth.


What if Mark Z framed it as 'free facebook + some educational site access' instead of 'free internet', then he could sidestep all these complaints easily?

"The perfect (NN) is the enemy of the good (free fb+wiki)".

I imagine farmers could improve their lives by sharing information on regional facebook groups. Best of luck with it Mark, although i know you'll likely never read this :)


It is indeed heartwarming to see such mobilization for a just cause like internet neutrality.

One of the biggest hurdles in defending 'intellectual' issues like net neutrality, privacy or academic pay-walling is the general public's apathy towards such perceived niche issues while there are pressing issues to deal with closer to ground - poverty, hunger, vaccination come to mind.

I am reminded of Bill Gates' take on the Internet.org initiative [1] and while I certainly stand with him on that, I feel it is important to recognize what such intellectual issues represent: freedom to information, which is admittedly abstract, but fundamental nonetheless.

[1] http://www.cnet.com/news/bill-gates-prioritizing-internet-ac...


I think this is a very positive development. In the end, Internet.org and Airtel Zero are not very different in their scant regard for net neutrality.

It's also indicative of just how huge the public debate has become. Indian companies (and the media) have had to very publicly retract on their earlier stand on the issue.


Awesome news and thanks for standing up to a dual-standards company and CEO. You can't be for NN in the US and against it elsewhere. Internet.org is purely a vehicle to get more users on to FB....not the internet.


For everyone interested in tracking the campaign: stats are posted here: https://twitter.com/bulletinbabu


[Offtopic] The campaign provides a bcc address to keep track of the number of emails people actually send. However when I sent a response it bounced for this bcc address, although it was delivered to TRAI.

This happened on the first day of the campaign (the day the AIB video came out) and it is probably fixed now, but this count could be understating things a bit.


I think we're counting about 100k short of actual figures.


cant believe that Indians pushed these companies this much hard for Net neutrality..


Why? They gained independence from Great Britain without going to war.

There is a long history or nationalism in India.


Net neutrality is freedom of speech and liberty doesn't have a nationality.join the net neutrality club and support freedom of choice


Great news big players opting out, more to come.


Just trying to understand from the first principle:

If ISPs doesn't charge for facebook usage, then who _actually_ pays?

Someone has to...right? Just curious.


Initially, Amazon pays. Once the users are locked in - ISPs demand more money from Amazon. Of course, Amazon passes on these costs to the consumer in small little $1-2 unnoticeable amount. In the end, the consumer pays Amazon to have special access on the ISPs plus the ISPs to make money from Amazon despite no additional service or product.


The ISP connecting to facebook may not have any marginal cost, and if there is a marginal cost is it very low. So nobody or the ISP.


Facebook pays. And then owns the user.


So, ultimately it's still the user who pays. But he pays relatively more, because now there is less competition (leveraging the network/access to acquire and retain users).


Yes, it's a clever way for Facebook to boost their numbers tremendously by giving pipe to people, then counting them as FB users.



Happy to see Cleartrip, times, NDTV, newshunt out of internet.org. Let's talk to every other Indian company which is there, request, cajole, nudge, whatever it takes to get them to withdraw. That's the best way to make this irrelevant in india.


I really find it very hard to believe that a company like Facebook with (probably) so many intelligent people on-board will launch such a project without considering the serious downsides and the available better ideas (like the ones mentioned below in comments about free capped internet) etc. I don't want to, but the more I think about it, the more it seems that they just want their own profit with this.


This shouldn't be, but it's indeed business as usual. They have their profitability/success to worry about, especially since they have trouble generating enough profits to justify their share price. They dream of AOL times, if only with some coolness factor to offset their consciences.


wondering, when facebook, google and twitter start opting out from internet.org


Google and Twitter are not on internet.org. They are Facebook competitors after all. So much for Facebook's mission of "connecting the world". As ClearTrip said today in its statement: "it is impossible to pretend there is no conflict of interest".


Google search is on internet.org, so is Wikipedia.


What point is there to search without anywhere to go to from your searches other than the sites of those that join the club?


I'm not sure. But eventually they would rank sites from internet.org higher in their search results?



We have been asking them for days now. No response at all!


huh? why would Facebook back out of the organization they created?


Mark Zuckerberg on Net Neutrality in India

http://htmlpreview.github.io/?https://gist.githubusercontent...


I hope Facebook, Internet.org and Zuck give up their charade of philanthropy and come out clean because I can't seem to identify the so-called "poor" people of India from their ad. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s390lZ5UXc4


Really happy to see citizens standing up for principles and against corporate interests in the developing world. Great to see these principles in such a large developing country, compare to places like China where the population seems much happier to let "big brother" tell them whats best.


Question: If I built a web site that I provide for free and then set up a cheap wireless provider in my town that only provides unlimited SMS and lets you connect to my web site, am I violating Net Neutrality?


internet.org is a good idea to accelerate internet adoption in developing economies, but an honest one should be open to all companies, any company can join in by providing $x/GB and be part of the program, with x remaining constant for all and no special/hidden contracts. They may also favor startups by giving 1st n MB/GB free.


Everyone is greedy once in a while. So were the Internet hotshots in India but good that sense prevailed finally.


Really good job by the volunteers who put in the effort to the raise the awareness about this.


This is how net neutrality should work; driven by market forces, not the government.


I'm all for net neutrality, but I wonder how the currently unconnected people who have a chance at free connectivity feel about this.

My guess-- limited Internet access is preferable to no Internet access and ideological purity.


Yeah, most of those 620K emails (which isn't a lot at Indian scale) by definition, come from people that already have internet access.

Its sad, whatever you think about FB, getting more people access to Wikipedia is clearly a good thing (fixing illiteracy would be better, clearly).


Only if you ignore the opportunity cost. If we didn't give free Wikipedia access, we could have given something else for free. Now who should decide what is a better choice? The user of course! This is NOT the case in internet.org. Facebook picks the choices as breadcrumbs for the poor - while there are alternative approaches that can work.

Now, combine this with the fact that picking who gets on internet.org gives the telcos and FB huge leverage, the ulterior motives seem much more likely cause.


You can do that by distributing offline copies of Wikipedia.


How are you going to fit Wikipedia on a cheap smartphone which most poor/lower middle class Indians use. Most of them dont even have a PC.


I can understand. The question then becomes (1) who decides what is included in "limited internet" and (2) who bears the costs?

For-profit company making these decisions on the basis of commercial arrangements will take away all the potential of the Internet as we know it. Would there have been a KhanAcademy if ComcastAcademy ("limited internet access") was offered "for free"?


It's not "free connectivity" and shouldn't be discussed as such. It's "free access to a bundle of sites", which isn't the same thing - basically it's a monopoly doing a loss-leader program.


Those who don't currently have internet access will be hurt by this in absolute terms but the opposite outcome would be that a dangerous precedence is set that will have a larger impact on competition.


i think we need both Net Neutrality and internet.org. There should not be a choice of one over the other. Please let me know if I am missing something.




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