Facebook bats for net neutrality, but supports zero rated plans: CEO

28 Oct, 2015

Mark Zuckerberg said that India is Facebook's second largest market and that the social media giant is 'committed' to the principle of net neutrality globally.

"We cannot connect every person in the world without connecting everyone in India…the energy in India is awesome," Facebook CEO Zuckerberg said at the company's first Town Hall Q&A session in India, which was conducted at IIT Delhi.

The Facebook CEO answered questions that were posted on his Facebook profile in addition to taking some pre-screened questions from IIT students.

This is Zuckerberg's second visit to India after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister. Last year, he had visited a 'cyber village' in Rajasthan's Alwar district.

India is one of the key target markets for Facebook's programme, which enables access of selected apps and app-based services to people from developing countries at zero cost. The programme, which counts Reliance Communications as partner in India, has been criticised heavily for violating the principle of net neutrality.

In order to counter this, Facebook tweaked the initiative and rebranded it as Free Basics last month. The platform was opened for any app developer who wished to include his/her services on it.

"There have been a lot of stories here in India that state that is limited internet. This isn't the truth. The operators have spend billions of dollars on the infrastructure and so you cannot get the complete internet for free. So with Free Basics, we are letting developers offer zero-rated services," Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg claims that Facebook is a big proponent of net neutrality.

"We do a lot to support (net neutrality) in terms of regulations, we are working on building an open framework. We lobby for it (net neutrality) across the world but at the same time, we continue to push for access," he said.


With reference to India's burgeoning startup ecosystem, Zuckerberg advised fledgling companies to stay focused.  He felt that several entrepreneurs were simply meandering along without figuring out what they really want to do.

"All great companies started with people who cared about something and so my advice is focus on what you care about and not on the decision to start a company," he said.

The Townhall interaction also saw students questioning the CEO on incessant Candy Crush request (on Facebook) and Amber alerts, a mission by Facebook to help find missing people. Zuckerberg said that the team at Facebook is working on a solution to make Candy Crush requests less intrusive.

"This is where these Town Hall Q&As are really useful because I actually saw this question, that it was the top voted question on my thread," Zuckerberg said.

"So I sent a message to the person who runs the team in charge of our developer platform and I said by the time I do this Town Hall Q&A, I think it would be good if we had a solution to this problem," he added.

Facebook has about 130 million users in India.

Zuckerberg's India visit comes exactly a month after Facebook hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at its global headquarters in California. On September 27, Modi visited Facebook headquarters in California for a Town Hall interaction with Zuckerberg. The San Francisco event was webcast live on the Facebook profiles of both Modi and Zuckerberg.