How Internet.Org Might End Up Controlling Data Tariffs in India

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is on a two day India tour where he met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Zuckerberg’s prime intent to visit India is to promote his Internet.org organization, making internet connectivity free to everyone.

Why Internet.Org?

As of June 2014, Facebook gets about 1.32 billion active users per month. There’s very little scope for Facebook to grow from here unless it bring people with no Internet access on board.

Do we need it?

However, what needs to be questioned is whether this connectivity will be as free as it is now. The answer is definitely a NO. Users will be able to access content from only companies who signup with the organization. This is not the world wide web as we know. Imagine, Airtel and Flipkart partner with Internet.org to provide free access to Flipkart from Airtel’s network. If you are on a Vodafone network, you won’t be the beneficiary of the so called free Internet connectivity.

This is not something new, telcos and services have been historically partnering to drive data consumption in India. These steps were necessary in the Indian market to bring the Indian mobile users Online, however, a large scale implementation of such tactics might harm the Indian telecom market and risks controlling data tariff in a price sensitive country. If Venture capital backed services (like Flipkart) subsidize the data tariffs for consumers, there’s a risk that telecom operators might promote these services over free-to-access any service Internet as we know of. Imagine that with the above example deal, Flipkart is available for free from all telcos, while a non VC backed service, which might not have partnered with Internet.org, is not accessible for free. In this case, users are definitely going to access Flipkart over the non VC backed service.

The Indian government and the media needs to recognize these pitfalls before the Internet connectivity in india falls prey to capitalist ideology and is converted into a controlled entity, where select few companies have the privilege and an added advantage to offer its service to the masses. Irrespective of our reservations, if Internet.org succeeds in its intentions and is able to get millions on Indians Online, will it stop there? Once done, there’s never going back. Think of it as a life long highway toll that you’ll be paying – only those who can afford to pay the toll can access the destination.

Keep in mind that telcos like Airtel and Vodafone are already asking services like Google and Facebook to pay to allow users to to access their services. For telcos, Internet.org’s timing couldn’t be any more perfect.

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13 Comments on "How Internet.Org Might End Up Controlling Data Tariffs in India"

 

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Devraj
October 13, 2014 2:43 pm 2:43 PM

Is it a toll free website

Like Toll free phone no

Rupesh
October 12, 2014 2:22 pm 2:22 PM

When food is not free for those who lives below poverty line, how can Internet be free for poor or even those with money? India will never grow until unless people stop asking for free things, freebies and hell lot of free free free.

Sudar
October 12, 2014 3:35 pm 3:35 PM

YES

Rama
October 12, 2014 1:39 pm 1:39 PM
*This not something new although it highly violates the principle of net neutrality I really doubt if the Indian government will take any action against this. This in my eyes is by no means a form of charity or helping people. In countries like India even today around 15-20% of the population go to bed without any food what is more important food or internet connectivity? You can live without internet but you can’t live without food right? I really think companies like Google and Facebook are total jackasses only trying to fool people into believing they are doing something… Read more »
Ford
October 12, 2014 7:09 pm 7:09 PM

Why should corporations be responsible for providing basic (food or living) necessities? Next thing you’ll ask them is to provide you with health facilities because the current mode does not cater to our needs. That will lead to complete privatisation which will still not be acceptable by anyone. What they are doing is what they can best do. Internet over the past few years has exponentially increased knowledge base which over the years will help everyone to provide for themselves even.

Rama
October 12, 2014 8:16 pm 8:16 PM
Agreed but also ask these so called corporations to not label all these activities as “charity” or rather ask the tech media not to make a fuss out of it. That’s all I wanna say I really don’t expect anyone to provide anything for free but at the same time I cannot stand these money making corporations or rather the tech media fooling people into believing that what they(Facebook or Google) are doing is charity.They are only catering to the section population from whom they can later on reap benefits.If you call this charity then carriers of US have been… Read more »
Ford
October 12, 2014 10:08 pm 10:08 PM

Maybe I’ve not read enough blogs, website pages or news sources but not once have I seen Nadella, pichchai or zuckerberg proclaming charity work in India.
On a completely unrelated note, tech sites, you have to understand, need to survive too. Like the TV media, website media faces cut throat competition.

Rama
October 12, 2014 11:17 pm 11:17 PM
*They ain’t directly saying its charity work but the words they use to describe internet.org is as though they are doing a big favor to Indians and Africans. And if they were genuinely interested in providing free internet access to Indians they would have done so long back. Mobile Internet or at least 2G internet has been present in India for quiet some time.Back in the 2010 or 2011 Facebook never came up with such initiatives despite the fact that feature phones of 2010 and 2011 were definitely capable of normal web browsing and accessing websites like Wikipedia and Facebook.… Read more »
ujil
October 13, 2014 8:32 am 8:32 AM

on the other note, if they dont implement it in india, do u think the current tariff of internet & other such technologies will remain same from here on??? (i can’t see tht happen, it’s an almost weekly tariff hikes frm each & every company now)

Rama
October 13, 2014 6:15 pm 6:15 PM

Plus all this is temporary Facebook will not subsidize data tariffs forever at some point people have to pay for data from their own networks.

Rama
October 13, 2014 6:12 pm 6:12 PM
*See you are not looking at the long term effect this can have.I agree in the short term a section of our society will benefit from internet.org but in the long term the entire society will be the loser.There is something called net neutrality and initiatives like internet.org if implemented with other commercial organisations will be harmful for competition. Flipkart was taken as an example in this article. Imagine you start an e-commerce website of yourself but don’t have the resources to partner with telecom operators to enable users to get free access to your website then in such a… Read more »
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