NET NEUTRALITY AND ZERO RATING – THE AFFECTS OF MARK ZUCKERBERG’S INDIA VISIT

Last week India witnessed Mark Zuckerberg –the Facebook Co-founder and CEO, visiting the Capital Delhi and its nearby places like Agra. Being in Delhi, it is impossible for anyone to miss its charms and same goes for Mark! He visited some well-known places and was frequently seen updating common folk about his whereabouts in the city through his Facebook posts. Some of them include:

Mark Zuckerberg got overwhelmed by the beauty of Taj Mahal, Agra
Mark Zuckerberg got overwhelmed by the beauty of Taj Mahal, Agra
A picture from his walk near India Gate, Delhi
A picture from his walk near India Gate, Delhi
A still after the Townhall Q & A session, IIT Delhi
A still after the Townhall Q & A session, IIT Delhi

Out of all, the most awaited event took place at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. It was one of Mark’s signature Townhall Q & A sessions that enabled students and professionals from all over the country to satisfy their inquisitive hunger. Many questions of general interest were asked such as the progress of Occulus technology and the means by which we can incorporate it in our future lifestyle, future prospects of Facebook, why Facebook does take so much interest in Indians, even a very serious question (pun intended!) on repetitive and annoying Candy Crush requests. But again, the main question arises – What was the main purpose of his visit?

For those who don’t know about internet.org, it is an initiative lead by Facebook and many other corporate giants whose foremost aim is to make internet facilities accessible to everyone (especially for the under-privileged) -at almost no cost. These under-privileged are the ones who live in remote and under-developed areas. They neither have the money to pay for such services nor do they have enough knowledge regarding the role of internet in changing lives. Facebook claims to have reached out to more than 15 million people though their internet.org initiative –running in 24 countries. India being the second most populated country, has a humungous potential for this initiative. The numbers and statics show that a large Indian population remains very close to the poverty line. Internet definitely has the potential to raise their status of life and much more. Mark Zuckerberg’s tour to India is a reflection of the same. He believes in gathering information through interaction, particularly with the proactive youth generation for it falls under the category of largest modern technology user base.

Undoubtedly, the increased availability of internet would widen the horizons for those deprived of modern facilities. Companies like Reliance have tied up with the cause to provide internet services at zero charges in regions like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana etc. This would bring people closer to the virtual world of information packets. Nonetheless, there exists another side of the coin.

You, me and most of the smart phone users pay for the fast speed internet facilities they use whereas internet.org provides these services to a selected portion of population with bare charges. There has been a constant hike in prices of net related services in recent years. As a result, the concept of ‘Net Neutrality’ comes into picture; accompanied by a plethora of question marks.

Net Neutrality is basically a principle dictating that all the internet traffic should be treated equally. This directly implies that no sites should be banned for some specific viewers or there should be no control over the speed of internet access. Net Neutrality and Zero Rating scheme are far from achieving a balance in the current scenario. On one side, vigorous users of internet have to pay and often face certain site bans and on the other side, people getting benefit of zero rating have no such restriction. This is bound to create waves in the sea of Net Neutrality issue. Even government bodies have shown an ambivalent response on the matter. Albeit, according to Zuckerberg, these two must coexist and will in the future.

What do YOU think about this burning issue?