IDEAS Insights Net Neutrality & Development - lessons from Zambia - Page 4

Internet.org is a partnership between Facebook and a total of six other companies: Samsung, Ericsson, Nokia, MediaTek, Opera Software, and Qualcomm. The primary intention of this initiative has been making specific internet services accessible to two- thirds of the world’s less-connected population, free of charge. In 2015, internet.org was renamed Free Basics and within a year, it had spread to more than 40 million people around the world. [3] Its core principle and message is simple: access to the internet is a human right. This is an appealing notion in an age where the internet is not always utilized benevolently. Almost daily we are confronted with new examples of how digital technology can be employed by authorities in undermining human rights, whether through a death sentence for a post on Facebook in Pakistan, [4] or the complete banning of Twitter in Turkey to counter political discourse and dissent. [5] By focusing on underserved communities outside of the US and Europe, internet.org aims to reduce the expense of delivering data and expand access, providing its subscribers with so-called “zero-rated” access to content from multiple online services, including Facebook, Wikipedia, and several other regional content providers. Zero rating is the process of providing access without incurring data usage charges or any financial costs, and while this policy does invariably increase the reach of online platforms and creates social benefit through its free access mode, it also obstructs free market principles, as well as challenging the convention of net neutrality by unfairly favoring selected services and websites. Fig. 1: Hungarian protesters march against internet tax bill proposal in 2014 2