The chairman of Microsoft India has said Facebook should not “muddy” its Free Basics service by equating it with net neutrality, according to The Economic Times.
“I don’t think what Facebook is doing is about net neutrality,” said Bhaskar Pramanik. “It is about helping first-time users get on the Internet and they should call it that. But to muddy it and say that it is also net neutral doesn’t make sense.”
Free Basics is part of Internet.org, the initiative that wants to get users around the world online. Facebook is working with Indian mobile networks to deliver lightweight internet access to people at a reduced cost, opening up the web to a new set of users.
However, some are worried that Facebook has too much control over Free Basics and the services that it provides. India’s telecom regulatory body ordered network operators to block access to Internet.org services while it figures out whether the pricing is fair.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg penned a letter on December 28 criticising the decision. “Instead of wanting to give people access to some basic internet services for free, critics of the program continue to spread false claims,” he said. “Instead of recognising the fact that Free Basics is opening up the whole internet, they continue to claim — falsely — that this will make the internet more like a walled garden.”
Essentially, people are concerned that by bringing people online, Facebook and Internet.org then has control over what they see.
“If [users] are going to be charged more for a certain set of applications of their choice and directed only to the certain set because the operator says I will give you those for free, then where is there net neutrality?” said Pramanik.
“Somebody is paying for it. And the problem then is that if the operator or a service provider has the right to pay for it, then it limits smaller or any other organisation,” he said. “I think we need to be very clear that net neutrality means that everybody has the same advantages or disadvantages.”
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