(Mirror Daily, United States) – India hasn’t been as welcoming towards Internet.org as CEO Mark Zuckerberg would have liked it to be. Launched in the country in collaboration with Reliance Communication, Facebook’s pet project has been since caught up in the net neutrality debate.
According to statistics provided by Reliance Communication, Internet.org has engaged over a million people, but that’s not nearly enough, considering that India’s population goes well over a billion. At the same time, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) reports don’t bode well for Reliance Communication.
It turns out that the company had lost roughly 491,000 subscribers in the month of August alone. This shrinking number of subscribers is surely not doing any favors to Facebook, as their internet service can only be accessed by those with a Reliance subscription.
Market experts also think that a lack of awareness could be blamed for the fact that Facebook’s internet platform hasn’t really taken off in India. Sohail Khan, an owner of a perfume and cellphone shop in Mumbai, is the perfect example for this.
As recently reported in the New York Times, Khan has been displaying a banner ad for Internet.org in his shop, while having absolutely no clue what the platform was about. When the reporter explained to him what it was, he was rather dismissive, saying that customers would hardly buy into anything connected to the “patchy” connection Reliance is providing.
In spite of the rough welcome, Facebook said it does not plan to withdraw Internet.org from India. Instead, Zuckerberg hopes to make the platform available through more national telecom operators. Reaching out to people using different operators can lead to a broader awareness about Internet.org in the country.
But there is, of course, the net neutrality debate that Internet.org has been caught up in. Many users are against the service because they feel the neutral internet is being affected by the limited selection of websites provided in the package. However, Facebook has stuck by its position all along this bumpy ride: the platform does not violate the principles of net neutrality.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, he definitely supports net neutrality, as it fights and prevents discrimination. “Net neutrality means we can use the services we want, and innovators can build the services we need. Connecting everyone is about preventing discrimination too.”
As of September this year, Facebook has decided to rename the project and change Internet.org into Free Basics. At the same time, the Silicon Valley tech firm has also opened the platform to all developers to include their content.
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