India seems to be much less enamoured and much more suspicious of American tech billionaires – especially ones bearing gifts.
Facebook’s thinly veiled trojan horse Internet.org suffered a major blow on Wednesday when significant Indian partners Times Group, NDTV and Cleartrip.com all pulled out of the initiative citing net neutrality concerns.
Facebook’s initiative seeks to use donations to fund drone based internet access for poor, remote populations of developing countries.
The catch is that users will only be able to access a small list of pre-approved sites which are hand selected by Facebook. As can be imagined, Facebook is one of those sites.
“As for the Times of India itself, the group commits to withdraw from internet.org if its direct competitors—India Today, NDTV, IBNLive, NewsHunt, and BBC —also pull out,” Times group said in a statement. “The group also encourages its fellow language and English news publishers—Dainik Jagran, Aaj Tak, Amar Ujala, Maalai Malar, Reuters, and Cricinfo to join the campaign for net neutrality and withdraw from zero rate schemes.”
This response comes after a backlash in the country against schemes that offer ‘free’ internet but limit access to certain sites.
Since the first scheme, Airtel Zero, was offered by Airtel India’s telecommunications regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has received over half a million emails protesting the negative impact this would have on users of the internet.
For what most Americans would consider to be a developing nation to take such an enlightened stance on this serious issue to liberty and freedom is refreshing. Perhaps we should be more critical when our ruling billionaire class comes to us bearing ‘gifts’.