Welcome to Mark Zuckerberg’s neighborhood

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In the fall of 2012, about the time a recently IPO’d Facebook hit one billion users, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife found a house they loved in San Francisco’s Mission District.

The house was owned by a CPA named Cary who drove a Bentley, and it had been appraised at $ 3.2M.  Also, it wasn’t for sale.  

So Zuckerberg did what Facebook founders can do: He offered Cary $ 10m for the place — $ 6.8m over the appraised price — and even agreed to buy him another house a few blocks away. Sold!

With an origin story like that, it was probably inevitable that Chez Zuck would be seized on during the great Anti-Tech Backlash of 2013-14 especially given twenty months of construction featuring a large and longstanding crane and an automobile lazy-susan in the garage, reduced parking and traffic complications, a slickly-managed security desk clearing dozens of workers a day, a 24/7 security detail, and a few outspoken neighbors. Firm peaks of outrage whipped up from the froth a ready-made narrative, leading one to believe that having a $ 34 billion 31-year-old on their block has turned life to a living hell for his neighbours.  

Oh, the media.

Earlier this week I talked to some of his few dozen neighbors on the snug little T-bone hilltop dead-end, and took a wander through Zuckerberg’s new hood, which also happens to be my old hood…

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Latin American activists join the chorus of criticism against Zuckerberg’s Internet.org

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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.

Here’s how Mark Zuckerberg responded to those complaints in a status update:

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]

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