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<nettime> Times of India > Mark Zuckerberg > Free Basics protects net neutrality


Free Basics protects net neutrality

   December 28, 2015, 12:01 am IST 
   Mark Zuckerberg 

   To connect a billion people, India must choose facts over fiction

   In every society, there are certain basic services that are so
   important for people's wellbeing that we expect everyone to be able to
   access them freely.

   We have collections of free basic books. They're called libraries. They
   don't contain every book, but they still provide a world of good.

   We have free basic healthcare. Public hospitals don't offer every
   treatment, but they still save lives.

   We have free basic education. Every child deserves to go to school.

   And in the 21st century, everyone also deserves access to the tools and
   information that can help them to achieve all those other public
   services, and all their fundamental social and economic rights.

   That's why everyone also deserves access to free basic internet

   We know that when people have access to the internet they also get
   access to jobs, education, healthcare, communication. We know that for
   every 10 people connected to the internet, roughly one is lifted out of
   poverty. We know that for India to make progress, more than 1 billion
   people need to be connected to the internet.

   That's not theory. That's fact.

   Another fact - when people have access to free basic internet services,
   these quickly overcome the digital divide.

   Research shows that the biggest barriers to connecting people are
   affordability and awareness of the internet. Many people can't afford
   to start using the internet. But even if they could, they don't
   necessarily know how it can change their lives.

   Over the last year Facebook has worked with mobile operators, app
   developers and civil society to overcome these barriers in India and
   more than 30 other countries. We launched Free Basics, a set of basic
   internet services for things like education, healthcare, jobs and
   communication that people can use without paying for data.

   More than 35 operators have launched Free Basics and 15 million people
   have come online. And half the people who use Free Basics to go online
   for the first time pay to access the full internet within 30 days.

   So the data is clear. Free Basics is a bridge to the full internet and
   digital equality. Data from more than five years of other programs that
   offer free access to Facebook, WhatsApp and other services shows the

   If we accept that everyone deserves access to the internet, then we
   must surely support free basic internet services. That's why more than
   30 countries have recognized Free Basics as a program consistent with
   net neutrality and good for consumers.

   Who could possibly be against this?

   Surprisingly, over the last year there's been a big debate about this
   in India.

   Instead of wanting to give people access to some basic internet
   services for free, critics of the program continue to spread false
   claims - even if that means leaving behind a billion people.

   Instead of recognizing 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.

   Instead of welcoming Free Basics as an open platform that will partner
   with any telco, and allows any developer to offer services to people
   for free, they claim - falsely - that this will give people less

   Instead of recognizing that Free Basics fully respects net neutrality,
   they claim - falsely - the exact opposite.

   A few months ago I learned about a farmer in Maharashtra called Ganesh.

   Last year Ganesh started using Free Basics. He found weather
   information to prepare for monsoon season. He looked up commodity
   prices to get better deals. Now Ganesh is investing in new crops and

     We just took another step towards connecting India. As of today,
     everyone in India nationwide can access free internet...

     Posted by [74]Mark Zuckerberg on [75]Monday, 23 November 2015

   Critics of free basic internet services should remember that everything
   we're doing is about serving people like Ganesh. This isn't about
   Facebook's commercial interests - there aren't even any ads in the
   version of Facebook in Free Basics. If people lose access to free basic
   services they will simply lose access to the opportunities offered by
   the internet today.

   Right now the TRAI is inviting the public to help decide whether free
   basic internet services should be offered in India.

   For those who care about India's future, it's worth answering some
   questions to determine what is best for the unconnected in India.

   What reason is there for denying people free access to vital services
   for communication, education, healthcare, employment, farming and
   women's rights?

   How does Ganesh being able to better tend his crops hurt the internet?

   We've heard legitimate concerns in the past, and we've quickly
   addressed those. We're open to other approaches and encourage
   innovation. But today this program is creating huge benefits for people
   and the entire internet ecosystem. There's no valid basis for denying
   people the choice to use Free Basics, and that's what thousands of
   people across India have chosen to tell TRAI over the last few weeks.

   Choose facts over false claims. Everyone deserves access to the
   internet. Free basic internet services can help achieve this. Free
   Basics should stay to help achieve digital equality for India.

        Mark Zuckerberg is the founder and chairman of Facebook.

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