Mark Zuckerberg at IIT Delhi: Those talking of net neutrality are online, those offline have no voice

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Updated: April 17, 2019 5:01 PM

Mark Zuckerberg said Internet is an expensive commodity as service providers have had to spend billions of dollars to set up infrastructure.

Mark Zuckerberg facebook, delhi iitFacebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the lack of access was keeping great ideas and minds in countries like India away from the companies that could use them. (Express photo)

In his strongest statement yet on the Net Neutrality debate around Internet.org’s Free Basics service in India, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said those talking about it were all online and there was no one to speak for those who don’t have a voice.

“Those who don’t have access to the Internet cannot sign online petitions,” he said in response to a question at a Town Hall event at IIT-Delhi on Wednesday.

He said Facebook has always been a votary of net neutrality and backs the way legislation has been implemented in the US. “However, we need to separate when a company is charging different rates for a service from when another is offering a service for free so that someone could benefit from it,” he said, reiterating what has been the social network’s stated position since it was criticised for offering a bunch of websites for free on a platform now called Free Basics. In India, Free Basic is available only to Reliance customers.

Zuckerberg said Internet is an expensive commodity as service providers have had to spend billions of dollars to set up infrastructure. “Free Basics is open to anyone who can offer low bandwidth content,” he said, underlining it was not possible to offer the entire internet for free.

He said the lack of access was keeping great ideas and minds in countries like India away from the companies that could use them.

“It is impossible to fulfil our dream of connecting the entire world without connecting India where over a billion people still don’t have access to the Internet,” he said, when asked why India was so important to Facebook.

He said it was wrong to equate him as singularly being responsible for Facebook as everything was a team effort. Answering a question of startup, he said he could not understand how people thought about setting up companies without a product in mind.

“All good companies started with something they cared about,” he said, adding how for him there was no Eureka moment when it came to Facebook and the idea behind the social network. Urging students not to be worried about making mistakes he said, “Everything that could probably go wrong, I have done that. I knew nothing about business or hiring…we are not born with these skills.”

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