Even as the debate on Facebook's Internet.org initiative violating net neutrality rages on, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg today said the platform has made free basic Internet services available to more than 800 million people in nine countries, including India.
Internet.org is a Facebook-led initiative which states that it aims to bring 5 billion people online in partnership with tech giants like Samsung and Qualcomm.
However, Facebook's partnership with Reliance Communications in India to provide free Internet access to 33 websites as part of its Internet.org initiative has raised quite a few eyebrows with free Internet activists saying that it violates the idea of net neutrality.
"Internet.org, our effort to connect everyone in the world to the Internet, continues to gather momentum.
We've now made free basic Internet services available to more than 800 million people in nine countries, including just in this quarter, launching in India, Colombia, Ghana, Guatemala, and the Philippines," Zuckerberg said during its Q1 earnings call.
He added that more than seven million people, who weren't connected to the Internet before, now use Internet.org to get online. "And this year, we expect to connect even more people," he said.
Zuckerberg, who has achieved a cult status after founding the world's largest free social networking platform, has already spoken in defence of the initiative.
Stating that programmes like Internet.org are "important and can co-exist" with net neutrality regulations, he said for people who are not on the Internet though, having some connectivity and some ability to share is always much better than having no ability to connect and share at all.
Net neutrality implies equal treatment be accorded to all Internet traffic and no priority be given to an entity or company based on payment to service providers like the telecom companies, which is seen as discriminatory.
The debate on net neutrality was triggered in India by mobile operator Airtel introducing an open marketing platform 'Airtel Zero', and TRAI's consultation paper on whether telecom firms can be allowed to charge different rates for different uses of Internet data like e-mail, Internet browsing and use of apps like WhatsApp, Viber and Skype.
The last date for responding to TRAI's paper is April 24. According to a tweet by Net Neutrality India, a group supporting the principal in India, one million e-mails have been sent to TRAI in 12 days.