New Delhi: Indians are coming together in hordes in the online fight for net neutrality. And this increasing public pressure is forcing some companies to disassociate themselves from partnerships that allegedly do not confirm with net neutrality principles.
Initiatives such as Internet.org has seen some partners quitting, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes that such programs can co-exist with net neutrality regulations. "For people who are not on the Internet though, having some connectivity and some ability to share is always much better than having no ability to connect and share at all," Zuckerberg says.
Because one of the underlying principles of net neutrality prohibits any kind of preferential traffic management, Wikimedia Foundation's Wikipedia Zero appears to be violating net neutrality. Under Wikipedia Zero, users can access Wikipedia on Wikimedia's partner networks without having to pay for data usage.
Wikipedia Zero has been launched in 59 countries with 67 operators and Wikimedia estimates that "400 million people can now access Wikipedia free of data charges."
This might appear to be incongruent with Wikimedia's public positioning as a supporter of net neutrality. "We support net neutrality, and believe it is crucial for a healthy, free, and open Internet," a post on the official Wikimedia blog says.
In its defence, Wikimedia distinguishes its zero-rating program as non-commercial and highlights its operating principles that prohibit any exchange of payment and exclusivity. Wikimedia says that Wikipedia Zero "cannot be sold through limited service bundles" and is also open to "help other similar services interested in doing the same."
These principles, according to Wikimedia, "are designed to balance the social impact of the program with Wikimedia's other values, including our commitment to net neutrality."
The foundation says that it sees free access to resources such as Wikipedia as a "social justice issue," and "it is absolutely in the interests of the public to use the Internet to provide free access to education, knowledge, medical information, or other public services."
Wikimedia believes that Wikipedia Zero can serve as a model for others to follow.
Mark Zuckerberg also echoes similar sentiments, "net neutrality is not in conflict with working to get more people connected. These two principles - universal connectivity and net neutrality - can and must coexist," he says.
"Arguments about net neutrality shouldn't be used to prevent the most disadvantaged people in society from gaining access or to deprive people of opportunity," the Facebook CEO stresses.