Mark Zuckerberg defends internet.org initiative amid net neutrality row

Facebook founder announces support for net neutrality, but says it is not possible to offer everything for free

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has shown his support to net neutrality, but said it isn't possible for internet providers to offer everything for free.

Zuckerberg voiced his opinion in a video designed to recruit more websites to join the scheme, after a net neutrality debate kicked off around Facebook's Internet.org initiative.

Internet.org gives people in a number of developing countries, including Zambia, India, Colombia, Guatemala, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, the Philippines and Indonesia "free basic [mobile internet] services that are simpler, use less data and work on all low-end phones."

Networks are supporting the service because they believe that offering residents a taster of the internet for free will motivate them to sign up to paid-for services.

At the moment, Wikipedia, UNICEF, BBC News, Facebook and Accuweather all have apps on Internet.org, but Facebook is now opening the limited list up to other content providers, as long as they can run on feature phones and encourage the use of the wider internet. They must also not be data-intensive.

In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg said: "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. Connecting everyone is about preventing discrimination too. More than 4 billion people don't have access to the internet and the opportunities it brings. If we connect them, we'll lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty."

"If we want everyone to share the opportunities we have, then it's our responsibility to bring everyone online in a way that respects an inclusive net neutrality," he said.

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