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Amid a raging debate on ensuring equal Internet access for all, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg today rejected criticism that his Internet.org program, which has RCom as a partner in India, is against the concept of Net Neutrality. Internet.org is a Facebook-led initiative, which states that it aims to bring five billion people online in partnership with tech giants like Samsung and Qualcomm.

Facebook’s partnership with Reliance Communications aims at providing free Internet access to 33 websites as part of its Internet.org initiative. This has raised quite a few eyebrows with free Internet activists saying that it violates the idea of net neutrality.

The debate in India has also been triggered by mobile operator Airtel introducing an open marketing platform ‘Airtel Zero’, and TRAI’s consultation paper on whether telecom firms can be allowed to charge different rates for different uses of Internet data like email, Internet browsing and use of apps like WhatsApp, Viber and Skype.

Zuckerberg, who has achieved a cult status after founding the world’s largest free social networking platform, defended his initiative in a discussion. He said, “For people who are not on the Internet though, having some connectivity and some ability to share is always much better than having no ability to connect and share at all. That’s why programs like Internet.org are important and can co-exist with net neutrality regulations.”

Net neutrality implies equal treatment be accorded to all Internet traffic and no priority be given to an entity or company based on payment to service providers like the telecom companies, which is seen as discriminatory. Zuckerberg said 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.”

While the telecom major continues to defend itself saying the platform does not violate the concept, Flipkart has walked out of negotiations with the e-commerce firm stating that it after looking in deeper, it realized that net neutrality “can get compromised in the future.”

Its competitor Snapdeal’s CEO also tweeted his support today saying “Of course, we are for #NetNeutrality @snapdeal.”

According to Net Neutrality India, over 5 lakh emails have been sent to TRAI in support of the issue. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has put up the issue for public feedback with the last date for submitting comments being April 24 andcounter comments May 8. Besides, the government has also formed a panel to study the issue.

IMPORT:-BGRindia