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Net neutrality: Facebook, Airtel defend ‘free’ platforms

Zuckerberg at Delhi

New York: Facing an uproar over ‘net neutrality’, Facebook and Airtel today said their ‘free internet’ platforms are open for all service providers and do not discriminate among users, even as more e-commerce majors including Amazon.in and MakeMyTrip committed themselves to the cause of ‘open internet’.

Travel portal MakeMyTrip committed itself away from any such platforms, while global e-retail giant Amazon’s Indian arm Amazon.in said it fully supports an “Open Internet for innovation to flourish and to promote the vision of digital India”.

Net neutrality calls for equal treatment to all Internet traffic with no priority given to an entity or company based on payment to service providers like telecom companies, which is seen as discriminatory.

Finding himself on the receiving end of the ‘net neutrality’ debate, Facebook’s chief Mark Zuckerberg said today that Internet.org has benefitted “millions” of people on RCOM network in India and it is open for all mobile operators.

Asserting that universal connectivity and net neutrality “can and must” co-exist, Zuckerberg also said that he strongly disarees with the criticism that Internet.org offering some services for free goes against the spirit of net neutrality.

He also said that internet.org will never create ‘fast lanes’ for a select few by throttling the other services.

Bharti Airtel on its part said it will always provide same treatment to every website and application irrespective of whether they are on its ‘toll free’ platform or not.

The company’s MD and CEO (India and South Asia) Gopal Vital said that every website, content or application will always be given the same treatment on its network whether they are on the toll free platform or not.

A major public uproar has been continuing for last few days in India, especially on social media, alleging that platforms like internet.org of Facebook, which has Reliance Communications as partner in India, and Airtel Zero of telecom giant Bharti Airtel violate the principle of net neutrality.

Amid a raging debate, both the platforms have already seen some of their partners walking away, including Flipkart from Airtel Zero and entities like Cleartrip.com, Times Group and NDTV from internet.org.

Joining the debate, CPI(M) also passed a resolution in Visakhapatnam in favour of ‘net neutrality’. Congress party has already spoken in support of ‘net neutrality’ campaign, while its youth wings yesterday took out a protest march.

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