Internet.org India Partners Pull Out Over Net Neutrality Concerns

By David Cohen Comment

InternetOrgAppIndia650The Internet.org initiative spearheaded by Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg with the aim of connecting the world has run into some roadblocks in India.

Financial Times reported that Internet.org’s partners in India are beginning to pull out of the application that offers free basic Internet services to mobile subscribers, including travel e-commerce group Cleartrip, TV news outlet NDTV and media startup Newshunt, adding that the country’s largest English-language newspaper, The Times of India, has also pulled back some of its content.

The defections were spurred by concerns over net neutrality, according to FT, which reported that the perception is that inclusion on the Internet.org for some online services but not others promotes an atmosphere of inequality.

FT pointed out that Cleartrip, the most recent company to pull out of Internet.org, announced its decision in a tweet, which read:

Time to draw a line in the sand, Cleartrip is pulling out of http://Internet.org & standing up for #NetNeutrality http://cltp.co/1Hry8Lm

Internet.org did not respond to FT’s request for comment, but Zuckerberg discussed net neutrality in a question-and-answer session on Facebook Tuesday.

TechCrunch senior writer Josh Constine asked:

What’s your opinion on the net-neutrality implications of Internet.org providing free access to only a select few “basic Internet services” in the developing world, while other services require a data plan, and how Facebook/Internet.org is in the position to choose what services are free?

Zuckerberg responded:

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. 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 programs like Internet.org are important and can coexist with net-neutrality regulations.

Readers: Will Internet.org be able to restore its relationships in India?

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