India's New Net Neutrality Guidelines Suggest Facebook's Internet.org Is Just Glorified Collusion

from the we-see-what-you're-up-to dept

India's government has finally released the country's recommendations for new net neutrality protections, and the report makes it very clear: they're not impressed with Mark Zuckerberg's vision of a Facebook-dominated, walled-garden Internet future.

If you recall, Facebook's Internet.org recently took a nasty international public relations beating for its disregard of net neutrality, with content companies dropping out of the purportedly-altruistic program in droves. These companies complained that the program, which gives consumers in developing nations free access to some Facebook-approved services, set a horrible precedent by placing Facebook in the kingmaker position of a new AOL-esque empire, allowing it to pick and choose winners and losers.

The Indian government appears to agree, suggesting in the policy recommendation that Internet.org is basically glorified collusion:
" Content providers have an incentive to leverage the gatekeeper role of networks to collaborate and collude with TSPs/ISPs to stand above competition. Although such practices may enhance consumer welfare in the short run, the distortion in content markets would result in immense damage to the fabric of the Internet economy besides affecting the spread of innovation. While it may be legitimate for content providers to use business tools such as advertisements, reaching the consumer through the control of access or influence over access may have a deleterious impact on the economy."
If Facebook really wants to help the poor, critics like Mozilla have suggested, the company can offer discounted access to the actual Internet.

Facebook's response to these complaints so far has been less than impressive. First, company boss Mark Zuckerberg proudly proclaimed that violating net neutrality via zero rating was ok because the company meant well, and that opposition to the program was an extremist position. Facebook then announced it would be opening the walled-garden front door wider to include more services, but stated they'd still be banning most audio, video, JavaScript, Flash and even encrypted content.

So the good news: the Indian recommendations seem to recognize Internet.org for what it is: Facebook's attempt to elevate itself, break the Internet, and corner ad markets in developing nations for decades to come under the pretense of altruism. That's something Facebook makes pretty clear it doesn't think most people are smart enough to realize. On the flip side, there's some suggestions that cellular carrier Airtel (opposed to Internet.org) had plenty of input in the proceedings, since while zero rating by content companies is outright banned, zero rating by wireless carriers will be examined on a case-by-case basis:
"Before a licensee launches any tariff plan, the same would need to be filed before TRAI within a reasonable period prior to the launch of the plan. TRAI would examine each such tariff filing carefully to see if conforms to the principles of Net Neutrality principles and that it is not anti-competitive by distorting consumer markets."
That's effectively the same approach taken by the FCC here in the States regarding zero rating. While some see this as sane implementation of flexible regulation, as noted previously, it allows ISPs to violate net neutrality if they're just clever enough about it. For example, here in the States, T-Mobile's been making the biggest streaming services cap exempt to the detriment of smaller companies. Support for the plan has been relatively-thunderous despite obvious neutrality implications. AT&T, similarly, has been pushing the idea of letting companies pay to be cap exempt (again, breaking the open Internet and giving select parties a leg up) and many consumers and regulators simply can't see the problematic precedent.

Both of those examples suggest carriers can still blatantly violate net neutrality if the sales pitch is good enough, so you'll need some pretty uncharacteristically tech savvy, consistent and competent regulators if you're going to honestly determine competitive harm from zero rating on a case-by-case basis. Of course these are just recommendations, so they could change with pressure. In a statement, Facebook still claims they created Internet.org to "promote an Internet access model that is open and non-exclusive," and is looking forward to working with the Indian government to convince them that collusion is fine "overcome the infrastructure, affordability and social barriers that exist today."

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 27 Jul 2015 @ 12:58pm

    Like I've said before,

    Google: Don't Be Evil.
    Facebook: Don't even bother pretending we're not evil.

    Looks like at least some people are catching on...

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

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 27 Jul 2015 @ 2:21pm

    Facebook then [...] stated they'd [...] be banning encrypted content .
    And that attitude is exactly why I've never had a Facebook account (with the possible exception of a shadow account). Your desire to absolutely every little thing about me doesn't trump my right to privacy and security, Suckerberk.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 28 Jul 2015 @ 6:44am

    Many atrocious things are done with good intentions. Which is why we say hell is full of good willed people ;)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2015 @ 11:15am

    Any country in favour of destroying facebook I will "Like".

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.