Net neutrality – is Facebook a ‘basic service?’

Written by on May 7, 2015 in Guest Blog with 0 Comments

Fishermen fishing by fishnetFacebook has tried to head off the perceived conflict between it Internet.org platform and Net Neutrality by opening up the platform to third-party developers.  In a video blog post (here) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says “connecting everyone in the world and Net Neutrality can coincide”.

The Internet.org platform which has so far been launched in nine countries, gives users a cut-down, low-cost (free) version of the Internet.  Mr. Zuckerberg claims it is for the “fisherman and chicken famers of the world”.  In his video blog, he claims the Internet.org platform is about giving the disadvantaged access to basic (humanitarian) services such as: health, education, jobs, connectivity and of course Facebook!

I am all for lifting up the disadvantaged, I pay taxes and I consider myself a humanitarian, but the thing about Facebook being a “basic service” is a little tough to swallow.  People did a lot of communicating before Facebook and I don’t recall seeing Facebook in Maslow hierarchy of needs (though it may have been updated since I last stepped foot on a university lecture hall).

Trying desperately to not appear too cynical, this really looks like to me like response to the Net Neutrality backlash coming out of India.   Zuckerberg’s call is for a “reasonable definition” of Net Neutrality.  Many Indians have adopted a puritanical stance on Net Neutrality, calling for free services such as the Internet.org platform, Facebook zero and Wikipedia zero to be banned.  The reasoning behind this calls typically falls into one of two areas:

  1. Free service will make it harder for paid service to compete and gives these services an unfair commercial advantage, effectively altering the competitive balance of the Internet.
  2. The Internet world-view of these subscribers is corrupted, malformed and controlled. This is the idea the Facebook becomes the Internet for these folks and they never know what is really out there.  A darker version of this is that their exposure to the Internet is essentially corralled and controlled.

You got to love the Internet.org platform definition of open – “We’re building an open platform and anyone who meets these guidelines will be able to participate.”  Not exactly Hard rock Café’s ‘Love All, Serve All.’

This post was first published here.

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Jonathon Gordon

About the Author

About the Author: Jonathon has been lurking around the Telecoms and Internet space for the last 20 years. He is now a man on a mission – that being the reformation of the Industry Analyst business. He is working with his co-conspirators on transforming the Industry Analyst world forever as an Expert with EMI. .

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