With the rising debate on Net neutrality, internet.org, a zero-rated internet accessibility service from Facebook and Reliance is losing its supporters. Internet.org, which is currently available to Reliance Communication customers was offering free access to 37 services including prominent online players like Cleartrip, NDTV and Times Group.
Today, the leading online travel agency Cleartrip withdrew its participation stating that it stands up for Net Neutrality. Soon after, Times Group came up with its announcement to withdraw from internet.org, if its direct competitors like India Today, NDTV, IBNLive, NewsHunt, and BBC pulls out from the platform. NDTV Head Prannoy Roy tweeted that ‘NDTV is committed to net neutrality and is therefore exiting, and will not be a part of Facebook’s Internet.org’.
Elucidating its participation in internet.org, Cleartrip said that it joined internet.org with an intention of serving the ‘underserved’ parts of the country. The company also revealed that there was no revenue arrangement between them. “There was no revenue arrangement between us and Internet.org or any of its participants — we were neither paid anything, nor did we pay anything to participate. Additionally we don’t make any money out of that product. Since there was absolutely zero money changing hands, we genuinely believed we were contributing to a social cause”, according to Cleartrip.
Commenting on the ongoing debate about net neutrality, Cleartrip Chief Marketing Officer Subramanya Sharma said, “The recent debate around net neutrality gave us pause to rethink our approach to Internet.org and the idea of large corporations getting involved with picking and choosing who gets access to what and how fast.”
“We believe that the Internet is a great leveler and that freedom of the Internet is critical for innovation. Cleartrip is and always will be a fully committed supporter of Net neutrality,” he added.
Along with plans to withdraw from internet.org platform, Times Group encouraged its fellow publishers to support the campaign for net neutrality and called to withdraw from zero rated schemes. “We support net neutrality because it creates a fair, level playing field for all companies – big and small – to produce the best service and offer it to consumers. We will lead the drive towards a neutral internet, but we need our fellow publishers and content providers to do so as well, so that the playing field continues to be level,” said a Times official.
He also said that the telecom regulator TRAI and Government must unconditionally support net neutrality.
Earlier, a few telecom service providers, Airtel, Vodafone and Telenor had opined against internet.org during the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona. Today, Mark Zuckerberg supported internet.org programme, saying it never goes against the concept of net neutrality. With major players like Cleartrip, Times Group and NDTV opting out of internet.org and Flipkart pulling out of Airtel Zero, India’s movement for net neutrality gains a new strength.