Facebook, Google's Supposed Love Of Net Neutrality Notably Absent In India

from the don't-be-evil dept

With it now relatively clear that nobody will tolerate outright throttling or blocking of services, we've noted repeatedly how ISPs have turned their gaze toward other, more subtle ways of abusing their gatekeeper mono/duopolies on the net neutrality front. The most notable being interconnection -- or intentionally degrading service to extract new tolls from content companies, and zero rated apps -- or letting some content bypass the cap if a content or service company is willing to pay ISPs a premium. Both battlefields obviously benefit the ISPs and content companies with the deepest pockets.

One of the major reasons Facebook and Google were so quiet during the latest round of the net neutrality fight is because they were happy with the original 2010 rules, given they didn't cover wireless whatsoever. But they were also happy about the loopholes regarding zero rated apps, which play a starring role in the companies' future global ambitions. Zero rating is particularly important to the companies overseas, where both offer free, walled-garden internet access where their services get preferential treatment from wireless carriers (see Facebook Zero or Google Free Zone).

With the neutrality debate taking root globally, both Facebook and Google are taking increased criticism for "supporting net neutrality in the US" (though, as we've noted, they really haven't) while pushing for zero-rated models that trample neutrality overseas. In India for example, regulators are now being bombarded with comments from a public that's realizing just how badly these models tilt the entire massive playing field toward the gaping maws of industry giants, whether that's the regional wireless company, Facebook, or both:
"Reliance’s deal with Facebook, called Internet.org, effectively gives you one social network at no cost, while forcing you to pay for others like LinkedIn. It might seem like the company being generous, but it only works because Facebook and Reliance were able to strike a deal. A smaller social networking firm that doesn’t have Facebook’s resources or influence would find it harder to build an audience, because they’re competing with a free service....Pahwa pointed out that this strategy could result in dominance of major players in the market and crowding out of others who can’t afford to “strike deals or pay up for getting access to the fast lane".
Indian Internet users aren't alone in realizing the problems inherent in zero rated apps. A growing chorus of Internet content companies have started backing away from zero rated efforts like Airtel Zero or Facebook's Internet.org deal with Reliance. The Times Group, India Today, NDTV, IBNLive, NewsHunt, and BBC have all pulled out of the initiatives citing the bad precedent set in cherry picking which content gets a free ride. Flight, hotel and travel price tracking website Cleartrip also dropped out, posting to their blog that such exclusionary practices are against the company's DNA:
"...the recent debate around #NetNeutrality 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. What started off with providing a simple search service has us now concerned with influencing customer decision-making by forcing options on them, something that is against our core DNA."
While the neutrality debate in India may be fresher, the public and industry there are already more in tune to the threat posed by zero rated apps than many U.S. customers and companies are. And the U.S. and India are obviously seeing more conversation on this issue than, say, markets in Africa. There, in many markets, users are happy to get access no matter what it looks like, and Google and Facebook are aggressively jockeying for pole position over billions in new advertising eyeballs. These services in particular are a two-sided coin. On the one side, both companies are correct in noting that the services deliver limited web access (and all the great things that entails) to those who currently don't have service. On the other hand, as Susan Crawford highlighted a few years ago, what these users are getting is a notable bastardization of the internet:
"For poorer people, Internet access will equal Facebook. That’s not the Internet—that’s being fodder for someone else’s ad-targeting business," she says. "That’s entrenching and amplifying existing inequalities and contributing to poverty of imagination—a crucial limitation on human life."
If you're building internet access from the ground up dominated by a few ISPs and a few content gatekeepers, it certainly makes you wonder what kind of strange monstrosities these models evolve into. When the internet starts from a place of openness, companies have a steeper uphill climb. Here in the States, both AT&T and T-Mobile have struggled to convince the public that these models heavily benefit consumers. AT&T has been setting a horrible precedent by allowing deep pocketed companies to bypass usage caps, pitching the concept as "1-800" or "free shipping" for data. T-Mobile's had better luck convincing users that exempting only the biggest music services is a consumer boon for the ages (it's not, because it puts non-profits, independents and smaller companies in an immediate competitive hole).

While zero rated apps are now banned by net neutrality rules in a growing list of countries (Chile, Slovenia, The Netherlands and Canada), the FCC's new rules appear to take a hands off approach to zero rating. That's a decision you can be sure Facebook and Google -- both still frequently praised in the media as champions of net neutrality -- had notable input on.

Filed Under: favoritism, india, internet, net neutrality, picking favorites, zero rating
Companies: airtel, facebook, google, internet.org, reliance, wikipedia


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  • icon
    Lord_Unseen (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 7:05am

    Hmmmmm

    So how are the resident trolls going to spin this one into "TD are payed Google shills"? Should be interesting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Crazy Anonymous Troll Guy, 16 Apr 2015 @ 8:13am

      Re: Hmmmmm

      Of course, Mikey. This is, once again, a ploy to direct attention away from you being the corporate lackey of Google by pointing out something that everyone already knows and nobody could be convinced is incorrect.

      You are very sly in your plans to pull the wool over the heads of the sheep that follow you. Next time, why don't you take a real position against the corporate Google spies that do nothing but burden us, steal our IP, and vacuum up our personal information to be sold to the highest bidder.

      You suck.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        PacWestGuy97, 16 Apr 2015 @ 11:38am

        Re: Re: Hmmmmm

        I won't go on record as saying TD sucks for their occasional support of Google. "Google isn't always evil" after all.

        I compare it to the U.S. citizens united ruling. The ACLU was a heavy champion of citizens united. As an organization that uses free speech to fight free speech offenses I think their lawyers traded an aspect of something good for something they felt they could sway in future legal rulings to make it better.

        TD has many insightful articles... and looking at the whole of their work, like looking at the ACLU and the whole of their work they do their best based on what they know at the time. I don't think this sight praising Google as frequently as it does implies collusion between the two. I see it simply as support for the whole and letting the occasional abuse by Google go by the wayside as Google represents one of the only sticks (or carrots) that can be waved in front of the truly hardened offenders Google on occasion goes up against.

        I wouldn't say the ACLU was the cause campaign corruption, but they did open the door to it's abuse hoping for future remedies. TD has a lesson to learn here, will their staff trade some aspect of in depth opinion and reporting to further a larger goal? My guess is yes...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Thacker, 16 Apr 2015 @ 7:13am

    A big case is in Australia, where Netflix has zero-rating deals with the second and third tier ISPs. However, note that all wireline ISPs in Australia have metered Internet partially because the largest ISPs (formerly state-owned Telstra and Optus) owned the undersea cables, and charged high transit fees for all the smaller ISPs to get off the island. (Network to network transit is always metered, and it's also cheaper the more you promise to buy; however it's consistently fallen in price worldwide.) Netflix, which has been building its own CDN ("OpenConnect") has established a beachhead in Australia and offers free peering of Netflix traffic. (Not, of course, free transit of network traffic bound for things other than Netflix, despite that "Open" name.)

    While it would be even better to have the Tier 2 and 3 ISPs access to free peering off the island, it's difficult to argue that in that case that the zero rating benefits the deepest pocket ISPs in Autralia-- it hurts them, while benefiting the smaller ISPs but also the deep pocket content provider Netflix.

    "Both battlefields obviously benefit the ISPs and content companies with the deepest pockets."


    Perhaps, though in the US it's deep pocket (and close to a majority of all network traffic) Netflix and its transit providers and CDNs that ISPs have been trying to extra money from. Smaller content companies get lost in the noise of the existing transit or peering agreements.

    Also consider that a content company that pays for these deals is either reducing its own profits or else passing this cost along to its subscribers. Hard to say that it's necessarily a win for the big pocketed content, or else Netflix wouldn't oppose these things in the US. In the cable TV market, the reverse happens, where content providers are paid and the MVPDs pass the cost along to subscribers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 18 Apr 2015 @ 7:16am

      Re:

      Also consider that a content company that pays for these deals is either reducing its own profits or else passing this cost along to its subscribers.

      No, it's increasing its profits by gaining access to more users, potentially at the expense of smaller competitors.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 7:39am

    Crawford's nailed this

    "For poorer people, Internet access will equal Facebook. That’s not the Internet—that’s being fodder for someone else’s ad-targeting business," she says. "That’s entrenching and amplifying existing inequalities and contributing to poverty of imagination—a crucial limitation on human life."

    It's also mass surveillance, which is how Stallman has correctly described Facebook. This isn't communication or education or enlightenment: it's enslavement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Designerfx (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 7:51am

    zero rated apps have an easier explanation

    There's an easier way to sum up/explain what zero rated apps do:

    they turn the internet into AOL online.

    So facebook = aol online
    google = aol online

    Why would people want that?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 16 Apr 2015 @ 8:19am

      Re: zero rated apps have an easier explanation

      So facebook = aol online
      google = aol online


      First, AOL is an for America OnLine, so you are calling them "America Online online".

      Second, it's more like:

      facebook = aol + a Sony rootkit spying on you
      google = aol + an online gps that follows you around and recommends you buy things

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jilocasin (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 8:01am

    What's old is new again

    Personally, it looks like the return of AOL, CompuServe, Delphi and others.

    For those old enough to remember before broadband, before dial-up, before the internet was open to anyone other than governments, research labs and universities, we had bulletin board systems. People dialed into systems and left messages for each other (hence the name). Machine's passed messages to each other (any one remember the FidoNet?). This grew into the massive closed gardens of the major players, CompuServe, AOL and their like.

    Then the internet was opened up to the masses. At first AOL and the other big players provided some access to the larger internet. Eventually most people stopped subscribing to these closed systems and instead connected through an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to get access to the internet itself. For the price of a connection, and maybe a server, anyone could publish, create, or consume the fruits of someone else's labor. It was in this environment that Google and Facebook and Amazon were born.

    Even mobile phones went from running a small set of carrier approved applications to a practically anything a developer could conceive of.

    Unfortunately competing isn't as profitable as extracting monopoly rents. What benefits an upstart young company isn't the same as a large established player. This is where the consumer needs a strong and fair regulatory system. We are already seeing the signs that the market is sliding back into economic darkness.

    ISP cartels/monopolies/duopolies besides leading to poor service and higher prices encourage providers to leverage their control to extract 'extra' payments from other companies to access 'their' customers.

    'App Stores' (Apple, Google, and now Microsoft) is another case of a major provider charging a toll to allow developers to sell their products to iOS, or Google, or Microsoft's customers.

    Now with these _zero_rated_ apps and services we have come full circle. Facebook Zero, Google Free Zone, these are just the 21st century reincarnation of AOL and CompuServe.

    If you've never been 'on the Net' AOL might seem like a pretty good thing. Does anyone having lived through that, seriously want to go back to that?

    If we're not careful that's where we'll end up. Trapped in an AOL like service with access to things packaged up like bundles of cable channels.

    The next Facebook, Google, Etsy, or Twitter will never exist, strangled in its swaddling by the Googles and Comcasts of the world.

    It's not good for consumers, and it's not good for the economy. What it is good for are the profits of current major players.... at least in the short term.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 8:11am

      Re: What's old is new again

      "Personally, it looks like the return of AOL, CompuServe, Delphi and others."

      Exactly what I was thinking...

      In these markets, I can imagine people asking: "are you on Facebook or Google?"

      And the answer very much determines if you'll be able to communicate with them over the "Internet" or not...

      It's sad.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 8:18am

      Re: What's old is new again

      Except Google store definitely isn't the only way to get android apps. App stores in the android world provide a service on both sides, a way to find apps on the user side and allow developers to charge for/distribute their apps without having to handle all the details like taxes, having a merchant account, bandwidth, ect. Apples app store provides the same beneficial services. Yes there are concerns about its walled garden, but thats less about extracting monopoly rents as it is curating the apple experiance.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 8:31am

        Re: Re: What's old is new again

        "curating the apple experiance"

        This is just marketing-speak for "locking everyone into our walled garden so we can extract monopoly rents."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 8:15am

    People are dirt

    Every publicly traded company that says they support the community or anything that benefits the community is guaranteed to be lying like a dog. They don't give a shit, and anyone dumb enough to believe them deserves whatever they get.

    They only ever support what benefits them and their agenda. Yes, sometimes what benefits the company does benefit the community but that is just a side effect of what benefited the company.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 8:57am

      Re: People are dirt

      Why just publicly traded companies? Why just companies period and not people? People run companies so it isn't that companies are evil, it is the people that are evil.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 10:04am

        Not evil, selfish and short-sighted

        The whole point of government is to distribute power around more widely than it is when natural order prevails. A system in which corporations have all the gold, guns and power is little different than when kings and lords have all the gold guns and power. Either way, it sucks for us peasant schlubs here at the bottom.

        We had figured we were over that shit when King George's parliament decided to tax the shit out of the colonies without giving us recourse. That's sort of happening again, this time, specifically, when we're just getting blatantly gouged for internet.

        We could live without internet. The colonies could also live without tea. See how long that lasts. Either way, our responses will ultimately be the same.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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