Published On: Mon, Mar 9th, 2015

Telecom Chiefs Accusing Zuckerberg of Robin Hooding the Mobiles

Mark Zuckerberg

Indian multinational telecommunications services company Bharti Airtel’s founder, chairman and Group CEO Sunil Mittal, is critical of Mark Zuckerberg‘s free internet idea, according to a PTI report.

Facebook has launched its Internet.org initiative, giving users Internet access free of charge for some websites (say, Facebook) providing they come through a partner telecom operator.

“I told [Zuckerberg] that you are right that [Internet.org] expands the market, ” Mittal told the press gathered at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, except that “at the end, you must understand that we (telecom operators) need to charge you for something.”

“SMSs have gone more or less, voice is going down and they (Facebook) recognize that, ” Mittal added. He believes telecom companies are not making so much money. Telecom companies invest billions in putting together the systems, and then web-based providers (Skype comes to mind) ride on top of the mobile operators’ networks, investing nothing in them, and cutting into their business.

OK, boohoo all around, but the man does make a cogent point.

Telecom provider Vodafone’s global CEO Vittorio Colao was heard to quip that Zuckerberg is doing philanthropy, “but with my money.”

Mittal went on to argue that Zuckerberg “is saying that he’ll make Internet.org a ‘lite’ version of Facebook, free of data charges, so that people will upgrade. People will come to Internet for the first time. The point is that it is self-serving for them.”

It would be a little like walking into someone’s restaurant with your own chafing dishes and offering their customers a free taste of your food. Sooner or later, some crazed chef is liable to chase you out of there with a cleaver…

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