India isn’t the only country to greet Internet.org with mounting skepticism –activists across Latin America are also suspicious of the Facebook-led effort to bring affordable but limited Internet access to the developing world.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a collection of criticisms from activists in Colombia, Brazil, Peru, and other Latin American countries. Many of them focus on the same claim: Internet.org threatens net neutrality.
Here’s how the EFF summarizes those complaints:
Internet.org users will be cut off from the ‘ocean’ of the Internet that the rest of the world inhabits, where the whole Internet is available for use without any discrimination or prioritization of certain applications. Instead, they will enjoy a ‘fishbowl’ Internet, which they will have to pay an added charge for all those services that are not part of the zero rating plan(for instance, small businesses sites, independent app developers, and innovative new services.)
Indian companies have levied the same criticisms against the initiative, which seeks to provide free Internet access to people living in remote areas via lasers, drones, and partnerships with members of the telecommunications industry.
To give more people access to the internet, it is useful to offer some service for free. If someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access than none at all.
Internet.org doesn’t block or throttle any other services or create fast lanes — and it never will. We’re open for all mobile operators and we’re not stopping anyone from joining. We want as many internet providers to join so as many people as possible can be connected.
It seems that Latin American countries are more inclined to side with Zuck than their activists. All of the countries mentioned above — Colombia, Brazil, Peru — have formed some kind of relationship with Internet.org and Zuckerberg.
And why wouldn’t they? Internet.org allows them to connect more people to the Internet (a nice feather in any politicians’ cap) without having to do so in a way that puts those Internet connections at the mercy of a foreign tech company.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]