Zero Rating and Net Neutrality


Beggars can’t be choosers.


Rather, when one has limited resources, one must evaluate and take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. That’s ruthless pragmatism.


This article about Google Fiber’s effect on broadband in the US makes a good counterargument in favor of


Pardon me, but I don’t understand how Google Fiber is a good argument in favor of internet org. As far as I understand Google put in money on infrastructure and created something of unique value that forced competing ISPs also to upgrade and give better service for everyone. But I’ve not seen Internet org competing with local telecom companies and forcing them to invest on infrastructure. (Although, to be fair, I’ve seen a computer animated video in which Mr Zuckerberg claims that they will increase the coverage of cellphone towers)


In the US, existing incumbent telecommunications companies were not deploying broadband and have achieved a degree of regulatory capture to make new competition difficult. Google Fiber has overcome these hurdles and is beginning to offer broadband. This in turn has changed the behaviour of the incumbents who find that they now need to compete and offer better connectivity to users. As far as unique value goes, I’d argue that in Internet org’s case, free but limited Internet access meets that definition.

The point is that a new entrant/business model in a market can affect change in the face of other hurdles. Internet org may change the calculus for existing providers depending on its effect on existing users and new users.


You’re actually right. What happened in India is Internet org partnered with Reliance to give free access to certain websites and almost simultaneously another Telecom (Airtel) started their own zero-rating platform (Airtel Zero).

Thus, Internet org is starting that competition where telecoms try and become the gatekeepers to Internet and decide market winners and so on. You’re absolutely right.


In the meantime, while telecoms try to become gatekeepers, more users get online.



FB changes labels.

The discussion on services like is centers on the haves (Internet access) and have nots. The haves oppose it because they feel that the unconnected masses will be mislead and manipulated. The have nots, having been mislead and manipulated all their lives by the haves understand the danger but prefer to have limited access rather than none.

Predictably, the haves focus on theory while the have nots focus on practicality. Hopefully, this will address some of the haves’s concerns and let the have nots get on with accessing the internet in whatever form they can reach.


comparing and Free Basics

Also check these questions


Commented on the spreadsheet. My points can be summarized in two basic points:

  1. Facebook’s Free Basics is a commercial service. Period. While it has systemic societal advantages, it is fundamentally a means for a commercial company to grow its user base. It makes many choices.
  2. The analogy to US network neutrality and use of FB’s FCC testimony is false. Net neutrality in the US looks little like that in India and FB’s comments to the FCC reflect that national reality, not India’s. It’s not an apples to apples to comparison; it’s apples to dragonfruit.


I’m glad that you’ve finally made one point that I agree with.

Free Basics is a commerical service aimed at gaining more users for Facebook, definitely. Now, does it truly have societal advantages? Does it also have societal harms? Do harms outweigh advantages?

What advantages do Free Basics provide? Make users sitting on the fence start use Facebook? I’ve two questions on this.

  1. Can people who use Free Basics afford the whole Internet? If yes, all that Free Basics does is kindle interest in them to use Facebook (and wider Internet, as FB likes to believe). If no, how can they access the wider Internet ever?
    According to Zuckerberg (from what I understand), these people can never afford the wider Internet and therefore Free Basics is a permanent way for them to access Facebook. If that is the case, Free Basics is like a temporary, inadequate fix to a permanent problem.
  2. Is Free Basics open to people who can afford Internet packs? Does this make them not subscribe to Internet packs? If yes, how harmful is this regression?

Yes, but they’re both fruits, you see?

No, I mean, just read the comments on this


And freebasics is an app like any other.

Good open question. There’s strong empirical research that Internet access has a positive effect on development. Is it reasonable to think that a lesser degree of access will be correlated to development to a lesser extent. I think that’s reasonable. Will the harms to users be any greater than those users who use the open Internet without much thought to safety and security? The Internet generally is a tool implicated in societal harms and goods already. How different will limited access be?

If FB’s walled garden is as restrictive as its critics believe it to be, than users who can afford to leave will be chomping at the bit to do so.
If limited access provides improved opportunities for economic attainment, then users’ economic situations are not static, but positive.
This also overlooks the likelihood bordering on certainty that users will hack freebasics. It also does not address the possibility that people might share an account owing to access device scarcity, muddling the data that Facebook hopes to gather.

Again, this depends on how restrictive the walled garden is as well as the availability of alternatives. If the walled garden is so sterile, people will gladly subscribe to Internet packs. If however the walled garden is expansive, people may be less likely. This creates space for other service providers


Hackers have already begun their work…

There’s also this:

The latter begs the question: if not for Facebook, would Google and Microsoft get involved?


I’ll put you in prison. If it’s as restrictive as they talk about it, I’m sure you’ll eventually climb out of it.


Coercion vs. choice…


This just came in: Aircel to offer free Internet across India at 64 kbps.

[quote]For new customers it is free for three months. After that if they continue to be active, customers by recharging with amount of at least Rs 150 in a month, the free basic Internet will be complimentary for them


So we’re back to wondering whether aircel was “inspired” by Facebook.