Groups Want Zuckerberg to Back Full #NetNeutrality in India

If Mark Zuckerberg is a supporter of Net Neutrality protections in the United States, he needs to stop playing favorites in India.

A group of 38 international organizations, including Free Press and the Future of Music Coalition in the US and the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic,  are calling on the Facebook founder to clarify comments he’s made about Internet regulation in India.

“Facebook has been urging users in India, and Facebook users in the United States and the United Kingdom (recognized by Facebook as a mistake), to sign a petition that claims ‘a small, vocal group of critics…demand that people pay equally to access all Internet services, even if that means one billion people can’t afford to access any services,’ and that ‘unless you take action now, India could lose access to free basic Internet services, delaying progress towards digital equality for all Indians,” the group writes in a post published Jan. 6.

These claims are “disingenuous” and further create oppositional camps in the country that the groups have worked hard to break down.

“It is concerning that Facebook—which says it supports Net Neutrality—would attack those who have sought to enshrine this fundamental principle in law,” the group says. “Such a move is an insult to millions in the fast-growing global community that cares about safeguarding the open internet. In addition, Facebook’s actions embolden telecommunications carriers in their broader efforts to stop Net Neutrality protections from being passed across the world—particularly in emerging nations and elsewhere in the Global South—by creating the false impression that there is a grassroots movement opposed to Net Neutrality. You have repeatedly voiced support for Net Neutrality, so we are confused as to why Facebook is now portraying Net Neutrality advocates as opponents.”

The controversy arose last month when Facebook’s Free Basics program, which provides free internet access to certain websites and services, was paused in India as the Regulatory Authority of India said it wanted to review the program on Net Neutrality grounds. Egypt later took the same action, according to The Register, a UK-based news site. In response, Zuckerberg and Facebook have taken out full page ads in newspapers and called on users to sign a petition to the Regulatory Authority of India to allow the program to continue.
In responding to those ads, the organizations argue that the Free Basics program “risks exacerbating digital inequality. It creates a paradigm in which services from Facebook and its Free Basics partners are free, while everything else remains paid. At most, the world’s poorest people get partial access to the Internet. If you think access to the Internet is a right like access to health care and clean drinking water, then Facebook should support affordable access to the entire Internet for everyone, not access only to those services that Facebook or its partners deem acceptable.”
Read the whole letter here.
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