India Set To Ban Zero Rating As Facebook's Misleading Lobbying Falls Flat

from the phony-altruism dept

Apparently the millions Facebook has been spending on advertisements, lobbying, marketing and spamming the Indian government will be for naught. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) appears poised to ban the practice of zero rating as part of its new net neutrality rules, effectively killing Facebook's controversial Free Basics zero rating program once and for all in the country. According to the Times of India, TRAI is expected to deliver the death blow to Facebook's world-domination ambitions within a week:
"Trai will issue an order to this effect within a week, top sources told TOI. The order is also expected to bar free or subsidised data packages that offer access to only a select services, such as Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp messenger. "These are discriminatory and are against the concept of digital democracy. We will not allow them," a source said. The regulator's stand will clear the confusion over net neutrality. There were apprehensions over the manner in which free Internet was being offered, after the introduction of some zero-rated platforms with preferential treatment to a few websites for a fee."
India would join Japan, The Netherlands, Chile and Slovenia in banning zero rating entirely, based on the idea that cap exemption gives some companies a leg up, and unfairly distorts the inherently level Internet playing field.

That's something the FCC refused to do here in the States, and as a result we're witnessing telecom carriers rushing toward who can be the most "innovative" in the zero rating space. AT&T and Verizon are now formally charging companies for premium, cap-exempt status, T-Mobile is throttling every shred of video that touches its network to 1.5 Mbps (and lying about it), and Comcast is now exempting its own streaming video service from usage caps, much to the chagrin of smaller streaming competitors. So far, the FCC's response has been to nod dumbly.

In India, Facebook (lead by former FCC boss and neutrality waffler Kevin Martin), has been engaged in a blistering media and lobbying campaign to convince India that a curated walled garden run by Facebook was a great way to help the nation's poor farmers. Indian activists and critics like Mozilla disagreed, arguing that the company was simply hiding its lust to control emerging ad markets under the banner of altruism, and if Facebook really wanted to help India's poor, it should focus on improving the country's actual Internet infrastructure.

Facebook's initial response was to call critics of the company's program extremists who were hurting the poor (despite many of the critics being local Indian activists who've dedicated a lifetime to that task). When that didn't work, Facebook changed the name of the program, and filled local newspapers with full-page editorials by CEO Mark Zuckerberg declaring the company's sole interest was poor farmers, not cornering developing ad markets. When people didn't buy that, Facebook tried tricking its users (including those in the U.S. and UK) into spamming the Indian government.

It appears to be that last effort that may have pushed TRAI over the edge (you can read TRAI politely trying to ask Facebook (pdf) to prove the 11 million bogus supporters of Free Basics actually exist). Assuming TRAI follows through on reports, Facebook's now forced to do what many critics wanted all along: actually put all of the money spent on lobbying and marketing Free Basics -- into actually helping shore up India's lagging telecom infrastructure.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 2:19pm

    Tom Wheeler: Dingo after all?

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

  • icon
    ottermaton (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 2:59pm

    impotent rage

    I can't imagine the impotent rage Zuck must feel that while he's one of the richest people on the planet he still can't get everything his way.

    Then I can't imagine desperately trying to accumulate even more wealth while being one of the richest people on the planet either.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2016 @ 3:20pm

      Re: impotent rage

      > Then I can't imagine desperately trying to accumulate even more wealth while being one of the richest people on the planet either.

      And that is why you fail. You are simply not rapacious enough to imagine the evil required.

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

      • identicon
        Suomynona, 1 Feb 2016 @ 5:57pm

        Re: Re: impotent rage

        > And that is why you fail. You are simply not rapacious enough to imagine the evil required.

        Do NOT, hmmm? In this one, weak, the force is.

        Good for cannon fodder only are you. With this gun unloaded, run that-way you will. Duck and cover I will.

        May the force .... weakling, you. Mind never.

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

        • icon
          tqk (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 11:10pm

          Re: Re: Re: impotent rage

          Good for cannon fodder only are you. With this gun unloaded, run that-way you will. Duck and cover I will.

          "Mr. Spock, if you would please, a full spread of photon torpedos. Lets get rid of these silly "Force" religious fanatic twits."

          "Gladly captain." Pew, pew, pew, ka-freakin' ka-Blammo!

          "Helm, onto our net destination please. Riker, you have the bridge. I'll be in my ready-room. Computer, Earl Grey hot. Mr. Data, bring your violin, and Troy, I'll need your services as well. Wesley, try not to get yourself killed or start another war. Mr. Worf, I couldn't care less what you want to get up to. Have fun."

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

    • identicon
      Suomynona, 1 Feb 2016 @ 6:24pm

      Re: impotent rage

      > I can't imagine the impotent rage Zuck must feel ... trying to accumulate even more wealth.

      Not there, so don't know; but I think money/wealth has little to do with it. He's way way over the "worry about money" bar; I think he's actually trying to help people and still make a buck in the process. And he's got a Very Good Track Record for his one-shot pony so of course he's right.

      You can give all of the fishing poles, lines, and hooks that you want to people in the desert, but it won't help if it's not what they want -- at least in the way you intended. In this case he's trying to grab what attention they have left and point it at his coke of an idea (FB) by paying for the access straws. And by damn, if I'm paying for it all, then you're going to be looking at me, not G+ or porn. A reasonable sentiment which gives away his hand.

      For him, it's an investment in the future. Unfortunately, he seems to have bribed^H^H^H invested in looking for love in all of the wrong places. I'm sure they still appreciate it all, though. A buck is still a buck, even if it's actually a rupee.

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:13am

        Re: Re: impotent rage

        "He's way way over the "worry about money" bar"

        People at his wealth level don't worry about money in the same way normal people do, but they absolutely worry about money and seek to increase their pile. The difference is that you and I worry about money because we worry about affording the stuff we want. The ultra wealthy worry about money because money is power, and they want to maximize their power. Also at a certain point, the amount of accumulated wealth becomes like a score in a game of "collect it all".

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

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 11:20pm

        Re: Re: impotent rage

        I think he's actually trying to help people ...

        Really? Wow. Apparently marketing does still work. Who knew?

        Or, perhaps I'm just way more jaded than I thought I was. I haven't been able to take anything he's done in at least a decade any more seriously than I can take anything Hillary Clinton's done ever.

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

  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 1 Feb 2016 @ 3:16pm

    Based on how India generally works, the Zero rating thing is an issue mostly likely because Facebook forgot to pay the right people. India has one of the most corrupted political machines on the world (US isn't even close), and this whole deal smells.

    Not that I think Facebook is right, they are not. But had they piled enough money in front of the right people, they would be a national treasure.

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

  • icon
    scatman09 (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 5:16am

    motive?

    Is India the champion of net neutrality (a.k.a. fair business practices), or do Indian companies have their own horse(s) in the game that would have been blocked by this "zero rating"? Me thinks, the latter.

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

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 11:39pm

      Re: motive?

      Is India the champion of net neutrality (a.k.a. fair business practices), or do Indian companies have their own horse(s) in the game that would have been blocked by this "zero rating"?

      "Is India the champion of net neutrality" *I believe* means "The Indian gov't is protecting India's Internet citizen users", yes? It sounds like it to me. They're regulating a level playing field, I think.

      "... or do Indian companies have their own horse(s) in the game that would have been blocked by this "zero rating"?"

      I'm really not sure what you're talking about there. I do imagine Facebook has tried to build some very self-serving partnership deals with Indian companies to make this thing work financially for both Facebook and their Indian partners. Wouldn't anybody?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 5:17am

    something about giving them fish , and not teaching them how to fish.

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

    • identicon
      bob, 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:47am

      Re:

      it's because he's a fishmonger, not a teacher.
      a business selling pots will not teach you to make your own pots.
      unless they sold you the clay.
      but then why not teach you to make your own clay, and they'll sell you the tools.
      or teach you to make your own tools and....
      maybe they just want to sell pots.
      if you don't want their pots because they come with their own flowers, don't but the pots. simple as that.
      no one is forcing anything on you.

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

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 12:16am

        Re: Re:

        but then why not teach you to make your own clay, and they'll sell you the tools.

        I can tell from that you've never been a potter. I have. Clay's just the raw material that a potter digs out of the ground, and possibly fiddles with in some way to get it to do whatever it is he wants. That may be introducing some other type of dirt/clay to give the raw material different properties than nature provided, or mixing in already fired, crushed pottery bits (grog) that gives it better heat handling characteristics. This stuff has to handle like about 1700 degrees fahrenheit in a kiln. Too little, and it won't vitrify. Too much, and it'll just melt like glass. Then there's the clays themselves and their properties. Rich iron red is way different from "fine bone china" porcelain.

        I won't even bother to start on glaze technology (imagine baking or sucking the oxygen out of silver or copper oxide) or cool techniques like Raku. I could spend weeks going on about it. And then, there's the tech that lets a potter throw pottery. I love Shimpo wheels. Stick shift speed control, no foot power needed, variable/constant speed, gargle, gargle, gargle, ...

        I wanted to spend my life as a potter, preferably doing Raku, but there wasn't a living in it, so I settled for programming and IT as a close second.

        Perl or C can be pretty cool, but Raku's to die for, and pottery lasts way longer than any programmer's code will.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    O─čuz, 2 Feb 2016 @ 5:58am

    Thank you

    It was very good article. Thank you.

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


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