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Vodafone, Airtel, Telenor Slam Facebook’s Internet.Org Project [Telecom Wars]

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Reliance Facebook Internet.org free internet

At a time when Indian telecom companies are sweating it out to purchase expensive spectrum bands in India, and betting thousands of crores of rupees to clinch maximum frequencies for maximum profits, battle line is being drawn against the concept of free Internet propagated by Facebook.

In the recently concluded Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona, Spain, telecom firms Vodafone and Airtel have slammed Facebook for spreading free Internet.

Vittorio Colao, who is the Vodafone chief, said at the event, “That is not fair. It is almost like Zuckerberg does philanthropy, but with my money.. Why do we have Facebook for free, and why not Google for free, or TV for free, or education for free, or health for free? Who has said that Facebook is more important than learning English, for example? We have to be careful,”.

Fredrik Baksaas, chief executive of Telenor expressed his fears as well, “This is the tension… That’s where disruptions come,”

Sunil Mittal, chairman of Airtel met Zuckerberg in dinner after the event, and expressed his concerns over free international calls and free Internet as well.

Internet.org is a visionary project created by Facebook, which aims at providing free Internet access to those people who reside in areas where Internet access is expensive. The project has collaborated 7 telecom companies all over the world: Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Microsoft, Opera Software, Reliance and Qualcomm.

Launched in August 20, 2013, it has already covered 6 countries. This is the timeline:

  • July 2014: Zambia
  • October 2014: Tanzania
  • November 2014: Kenya
  • January 2015: Colombia
  • January 2015: Ghana
  • 10 February 2015: India

In India, Internet.org was launched in partnership with Reliance, wherein 38 services are being offered, for free in 7 Indian languages: English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati and Marathi.

Zuckerberg defended his decision of providing free Internet, as he said this during the keynote speech at MWC, “Our mission is to help people connect. This will help people stay close to their loved ones, and get access to services like health and education,”

In case we observe Facebook’s Internet.org project from the angle of net neutrality, then we will find that it breaks the net neutrality principle which states that there should be no discrimination between websites and application for any citizen from any part of the world. Hence, if a person uses Internet.org to access Internet, he will be only able to access few selected websites, and not the whole of Internet. Additionally, even on Facebook, the user will be required to pay for using certain basic features such as photographs and videos.

The logic behind Internet.org is very interesting and promising, and opens a new avenue of growth and progress; but the monetary side of this exercise along with net neutrality aspect should be kept in consideration as well.

We will update you as more details come in regarding the new Telecom war on Free Internet.

  1. […] Airtel had initially slammed Facebook’s idea of free access to few websites, but later launched their own Airtel Zero, which […]

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