Facebook’s Internet.org, which was launched in India in last February in association with Reliance Communications, faced resentment with a number of leading Information technology and Internet firms pulling out of the service after net neutrality activists claimed it violated the principles of a neutral Internet.
“I would say India is unique in that respect and very much an outlier. In other markets, Internet.org has been embraced as a pro-connectivity initiative that has garnered a lot of support,” Internet.org Vice President Chris Daniels said.
A committee by telecom ministry set up to examine the issue of net neutrality earlier this month submitted its report The committee recommended collaborations between mobile operators and content providers that enable “gatekeeping” roles should be discouraged. Facebook plans to scale up its service to offer free basic Internet on mobile phones, an executive said, after introducing the application in 17 developing countries over the past year.
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In a blog post released to mark the first year of the initiative, Facebook said it will allow any mobile operator to offer the service under its Internet.org program. The social networking giant currently partners with specific operators to launch the service in different countries. Internet.org has brought over 9 million people online over the past year, Daniels said.
Facebook developed the platform with six technology partners to bring an estimated 4.5 billion unconnected people online, mainly in Latin America, Africa and Asia. It offers selected web services for free to users, along with access to Facebook’s own social network and messaging services.
The blog post also said that over the past year, the service had bought new users onto mobile networks on average over 50% faster and that more than half the people using Internet.org are paying for data to access the wider Internet within 30 days.
Internet.org the brainchild of Mark Zuckerberg started with initial launches in Africa, later expanding to cover 17 countries — including large populations like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia — across three continents.