Even as Net neutrality continues to kick up much dust, a top official of internet.org -- Facebook's free mobile Internet service -- has said Airtel is planning to roll it out in more African countries next month. "We have a strong partnership with Airtel and we continue to roll out internet.org with Airtel throughout Africa.
With Airtel, we will be rolling it out in more countries after this month," internet.org Vice-President Chris Daniels told PTI in an interview. Airtel was the first operator to launch this service in Zambia and later expanded it to three more African countries. It did not comment on a query sent in this regard. Through internet.org, mobile users can access websites available on the platform for free.
Even the websites are not required to pay any charge for coming on to the platform, but need to follow certain technical criteria for joining it. Additionally, neither Facebook nor other websites are required to pay for Internet usage by end users. A government panel has criticised this kind of platform, saying this can act as gatekeeper and should not be allowed. Daniels defended the arrangement, though.
"The statistics show that what critics are saying about internet.org isnt really true. It is not a walled-garden; it is a gateway to the broader Internet. It's bringing people online more quickly. This programme is achieving the goal Digital India is setting out to accomplish, to bring people online," he said. Internet.org is available in 6 circles with Reliance Communications. "In the circles where internet.org is available, people are coming online twice as quickly as the circles where we have not launched it with Reliance," Daniels explained.
He said more than 40 per cent of people coming online for the first time with internet.org are paying for the full Internet within the first 30 days. "They are moving on from internet.org towards full Internet. Among the new internet.org users, there are 7 times more people who are now paying and using the full Internet," he said. Facebook has started campaign to defend internet.org in India and counter views of the government panel.
"Indians are voicing their support for efforts to connect more people. We received more than 3 million public comments. In those 3 million comments, 90 per cent were positive, 9 per cent neutral or spam and less than 1 per cent negative," Daniels said. Facebook has submitted the comments to DoT.
It has opposed the DoT panel report, saying its proposals to impose open-ended licensing obligations on app developers are "dangerous, resting on a false premise, and should be rejected". It has also challenged the panel's recommendations to regulate domestic Internet calls, saying the differentiation "has no basis in logic and law".