The movement for net neutrality gained further strength as individuals and organizations voiced their support alike, including technology evangelist Sam Pitroda and the Times Group. “#NetNeutrality is the only way forward for India of the future. Short-term issues cannot be allowed to create fog and confusion in the minds of people #NetNeutrality,” Sam Pitroda tweeted. Also Read - Internet groups claim that telecom operators are blocking Reddit and Telegram in IndiaAlso Read - Indian telecom companies including Reliance Jio blocking websites including Soundcloud, Telegram
Net neutrality means that governments and Internet service providers should treat all data on the Internet equally, therefore, not charging users, content, platform, site, application or mode of communication differentially. Also Read - Reliance Jio may be blocking proxy and VPN websites and violating net neutrality: Report
The Times Group in a statement said it is committed to withdraw from Internet.org and appealed to fellow publishers to follow suit and support net neutrality.
“The Times of India and its language websites like Navbharat Times, Maharashtra Times, Ei Samay and Nav Gujarat Samay that have together been spearheading the movement for net neutrality in India, appeal to all publishers to jointly withdraw from Internet.org,” it said in a statement.
“In the case of the group’s properties such as TimesJobs and Maharashtra Times, where its competitors are not on zero-rate platforms, these properties will pull out of Internet.org. 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,” it added.
Joining the debate over unfettered Net access, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday said Internet.org — a platform with RCom as its India partner that offers free access to data and customers and — can co-exist with net neutrality.
Reliance Communications, part of the Anil Ambani-led group, was roped in by Facebook recently to offer free access to data and websites to its customers through the social networking site’s global digital inclusion initiative — Internet.org.
Zuckerberg’s comment came at a time when there is a raging debate in India over the issue of net neutrality, with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India calling for comments from all stakeholders before submitting its recommendations to the government.
“I think net neutrality is important to make sure network operators don’t discriminate and limit access to services people want to use, especially in countries where most people are online,” the Facebook co-founder said.