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Facebook Expands Internet.Org Program to All Users In Response to Net Neutrality Concerns

Criticism of the company’s initiative has been especially harsh in India.


Mark Zuckerberg-the-face-of-facebook

Responding to concerns about net neutrality, Facebook has announced that it is opening up its internet.org to all developers. It is doing so with a new feature simply titled “Platform, ” but not everyone is happy with this for some reason.

The company declares that its Internet.Org Platform, “aims to give people valuable free services that they can use to discover the entire wealth of online services and, ultimately become paying users of the internet.”

Now Platform will provide an open program for developers to create services that integrate with Internet.org. Facebook also asserts that it is giving people more choice over the free basic services they can use.

“Our goal with Internet.org is to work with as many developers and entrepreneurs as possible to extend the benefits of connectivity to diverse, local communities. To do this, we’re going to offer services through Internet.org in a way that’s more transparent and inclusive, ” declared Facebook in a blog post.

There are those, however, who criticize the internet.org initiative as actually harming net neutrality because it is limited to specific apps and websites. That is, in part, why Facebook has launched the new Platform.

But criticisms remain in India where the service was launched in February and where a number of internet.org partners left the program after a huge outcry there over net neutrality concerns. Facebook had countered by pointing out that the service is free.

Nikhil Pahwa, a volunteer with Indian pro-net neutrality campaign group savetheinternet.in, told Reuters, “Did we give unlimited free calls to people so that more people start making calls? So why this almost patronizing approach to the Internet. You’re effectively disadvantaging other companies and broader usage of the web.”

Last month Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg responded to the criticisms coming from India with an open post in which he said, in part, “The internet isn’t affordable to everyone, and in many places awareness of its value remains low. Women and the poor are most likely to be excluded and further disempowered by lack of connectivity.”

“This is why we created Internet.org, our effort to connect the whole world. By partnering with mobile operators and governments in different countries, Internet.org offers free access in local languages to basic internet services in areas like jobs, health, education and messaging. Internet.org lowers the cost of accessing the internet and raises the awareness of the internet’s value. It helps include everyone in the world’s opportunities.”

Now in a video post he added, “Access equals opportunity. Net neutrality should not prevent access. We need both, it’s not an equal Internet if the majority of people can’t participate.”

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