Zuckerberg Defends Internet.org in Net Neutrality Flap in India

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to the controversy over Internet.org in India and announced the availability of the application in Indonesia.

MarkZuckerbergTamanKampoengCyberIndonesiaFacebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to the controversy over Internet.org in India and announced the availability of the application in Indonesia.

Net neutrality concerns led several of Internet.org’s partners in India — including travel e-commerce group Cleartrip, TV news outlet NDTV, media startup Newshunt and the country’s largest English-language newspaper, The Times of India — to pull out or cut back on their content offerings

Zuckerberg insisted in a Facebook post that Internet.org’s mission to connect the world can coexist with net neutrality, writing:

We fully support net neutrality. We want to keep the Internet open. Net neutrality ensures that network operators don’t discriminate by limiting access to services you want to use. It’s an essential part of the open Internet, and we are fully committed to it.

But net neutrality is not in conflict with working to get more people connected. These two principles — universal connectivity and net neutrality — can and must coexist.

To give more people access to the Internet, it is useful to offer some service for free. If someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access than none at all.

Internet.org doesn’t block or throttle any other services or create fast lanes — and it never will. We’re open for all mobile operators, and we’re not stopping anyone from joining. We want as many Internet providers to join so as many people as possible can be connected.

Arguments about net neutrality shouldn’t be used to prevent the most disadvantaged people in society from gaining access or to deprive people of opportunity. Eliminating programs that bring more people online won’t increase social inclusion or close the digital divide. It will only deprive all of us of the ideas and contributions of the two-thirds of the world who are not connected.

Meanwhile, Internet.org continued to add to the list of countries where its app is available, as Zuckerberg announced its launch in Indonesia in another Facebook post, writing:

We just launched Internet.org in Indonesia! It’s one more step toward connecting the whole world.

Last year, I had the opportunity to travel to Indonesia to support our efforts to connect more people. During my trip, I visited Taman Kampoeng Cyber, a “cyber village” in Yogyakarta. It’s a community that came together and organized to get connected to the Internet.

I stopped and talked to the owners of some of the shops, and it was inspiring to see how being connected was helping people share their talents and ideas with the world. The photo (above) is of me talking to a clothing store owner who was using his Facebook page to share new T-shirt designs.

After today, everyone in Indonesia will have the opportunity to share in the benefits of the Internet and access free services in areas like jobs, health, education and communication on the Indosat network.

Through this effort, we will lower the cost of accessing the Internet and raise awareness of the Internet’s value. And we’re going to continue rolling out Internet.org in more and more countries so that one day everyone can share the opportunities of a connected world.

Readers: What are your thoughts on Internet.org and its mission?

Over the past week in India, there has been a lot written about Internet.org and net neutrality. I’d like to share my…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, April 16, 2015

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.