Mark Zuckerberg defends ‘Free Basics’, says all of the internet cannot be free

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New Delhi | Updated: October 29, 2015 1:16:46 AM

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.

Mark Zuckerberg INDIA VIsiTMark Zuckerberg said the lack of access was keeping great ideas and minds in countries like India away from the companies that could use them. (PTI)

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 pushing for increased access to internet,” he said in response to a question at a town hall event at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, on Wednesday.

He said Facebook has always been a votary of net neutrality by supporting regulation and promoting it in the way it works. However, there was a 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 Basics is available only to Reliance customers.

“In terms of regulation, the US put in place pretty strong net regulations, which we gave our support for. Other countries are now trying to figure out what to do with net neutrality and we are generally supportive of those initiatives across the world,” he said. “There are stories here that we are trying to do Internet.org as a small set of services and cut access to the rest — that could not be further from the truth.”

Zuckerberg said the internet is an expensive commodity as service providers have had to spend billions of dollars to set up infrastructure and it was, hence, impossible to provide the entire internet for free. “What Free Basics does is open a platform for anyone who can offer low bandwidth content. These services will be zero-rated by us,” he said, adding that Facebook was not trying to be a filter on the content.

 

“Those supporting net neutrality don’t want anyone to do any kind of zero rating at all. But if you are a student and you get access to free internet to do your homework which you wouldn’t get otherwise, who is it hurting?”

He said the US regulations as well as recent EU rules separate net neutrality from zero rating and that was necessary. “And there are countries where most of the people have access to the internet and not like India where over a billion don’t have access and much more innovation is needed,” he said.

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. “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 on start-ups, 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.”

Those supporting net neutrality don’t want anyone to do any kind of zero rating at all. But if you are a student and you get access to free internet to do your homework which you wouldn’t get otherwise, who is it hurting?”

He said the US regulations as well as recent EU rules separate net neutrality from zero rating and that was necessary. “And there are countries where most of the people have access to the internet and not like India where over a billion don’t have access and much more innovation is needed,” he said.

Zuckerberg 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 on start-ups, 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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