Internet.org, the Facebook-led initiative to bring free basic Internet access to the developing world, is running into opposition from groups concerned that the project will limit access to content. On Monday, 67 activist groups from countries across the globe signed an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, expressing concerns that the initiative violates the principles of "net neutrality." That’s the concept that Internet service providers should give users access to all content regardless of source, without blocking or favoring some sites over others.
The groups' letter, posted on Facebook, says in part: "It is our belief that Facebook is improperly defining net neutrality in public statements and building a walled garden in which the world's poorest people will only be able to access a limited set of insecure websites and services. Further, we are deeply concerned that Internet.org has been misleadingly marketed as providing access to the full Internet, when in fact it only provides access to a limited number of Internet-connected services that are approved by Facebook and local ISPs."
A Facebook spokesperson told NBC News that Facebook agrees people should have access to the broadest possible range of experiences and services on the Internet. "We are convinced that as more and more people gain access to the Internet, they will see the benefits and want to use even more services. We believe this so strongly that we have worked with operators to offer basic services to people at no charge, convinced that new users will quickly want to move beyond basic services and pay for more diverse, valuable services," the spokesperson said in a statement.
Earlier this month Zuckerberg announced changes to Internet.org to address net neutrality concerns, opening its platform to developers so they could create apps and services for it. "I support net neutrality because, at its core, it's about preventing discrimination. Net neutrality means we can use the services we want, and innovators can build the services we need," Zuckerberg wrote.
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