India tech firms flee from Facebook's 'freebie access' Internet.org

'A little free net is better than nothing' says Zuck, but sites bail fearing neutrality fail

Poor people in India queue for a political party-sponsored medical check. Pic: Welfare Party of India

Indian companies have skedaddled from Facebook's Internet.org initiative to supply free internet to under-served countries on the grounds that the scheme was anti-competitive.

The free content ad network's plan apparently aims to offer access for free websites and applications signed onto the scheme over participating internet providers.

In India, those 38 apps and websites pay traffic costs for access over carrier Airtel Zero.

The potential to crush competition for sites and apps not signed up to the scheme is fuelling the subcontinental subversion, just two months after Internet.org launched in India.

Reservation site Cleartrip, news network NDTV, and headline aggregator Newshunt are the most recent to follow e-commerce Flipkart out the Internet.org door.

The Times Group has pulled its jobs site and Maharashtra property and will hit eject in its entirety should India Today, IBNLive, and the BBC join NewsHunt and NDTV.

Chairman of the latter news network said it pulled out because it was "committed to net neutrality".

The Times Group made similar noises adding that net neutrality "creates a fair, level playing field for all companies – big and small – to produce the best service and offer it to consumers".

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said a little internet is better than none, however.

Sites served over the initiative includes Bing, Accuweather, Dictionary.com, and Wikipedia.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is examining the impact of free apps and has received some nudging on Twitter including from the likes of Net Neutrality India. ®


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