Google covertly lobbied against net neutrality in India

The company emailed members of the Government Relations committee of the Indian ISP association, asking them to support Facebook's program, which delivers "a poor Internet for poor people."

Facebook has proposed that ISPs in India should create a two-tiered Internet: the free tier would have services that Facebook approved, and would be free for anyone to use. The pay tier would have anyone Facebook didn't approve of, and would only be available to people who had the cash to pay for metered data.

This has been tried in many places, always in the name of improving Internet access for poor people. These programs have been intensively studied, and the conclusion is clear and start: zero-rated services do not contribute to poverty-eradication or other development goals. Rather, they're used by middle-class and rich people as a cheap way to surf between wifi access points.

The Indian Internet community rose up against with a force and determination that puts even the US net neutrality/Title II fight to shame, bringing with it government scrutiny that sent Faceboook scrambling to retrench.

But it turns out that Google — a major advocate of net neutrality in the USA — is on Facebook's side in India:

Google joined hands with Facebook to try and prevent the Internet and Mobile Association of India, which represents some of the largest Internet companies in India, from taking a stand that counters Zero Rating. According to emails exchanged between IAMAI's Government Relations committee members, of which MediaNama has copies, Vineeta Dixit, a member of Google's Public Policy and and Government Relations team, strongly pushed for the removal of any mention of Zero Rating from the IAMAI's submission, as a response to the Department of Telecom's report on Net Neutrality. Please note that Google hasn't responded to our queries, despite multiple reminders…

…Dixit's email to the IAMAI government relations committee, while reasoning that there is no consensus on Zero Rating, asked for its removal from the submission, saying: "We would like to register strong protest against this formulation and would request you to remove this (Zero Rating) from the submission." Another email in that list indicates that only Facebook in the IAMAI has taken a stand supporting Zero Rating, and, funnily enough, STAR has taken positions both supporting and being non-committal on Zero Rating. This is a bizarre shift in STAR's position, given that it had written to the TRAI saying that instead of telcos being paid for allowing Internet content (via Zero Rating), it should be telecom operators that pay content providers.

It's also worth noting that Google had joined the telecom lobby COAI last year, a few months after Facebook did. The COAI has pushed aggressively for allowing both Zero Rating, and the licensing or regulation of messaging and Internet Telephony apps in the country.

Google joins Facebook in trying to prevent IAMAI from taking strong anti-Zero Rating stand [Nikhil Pahwa/Medianama]