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Blow To Internet.org As Indian Internet Companies Begin To Withdraw

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addresses the internet.org summit in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Oct.9, 2014. (AP Photo/Press Trust of India) INDIA OUT | ASSOCIATED PRESS
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A day after Flipkart exited from the Airtel Zero platform, Cleartrip, NDTV, Newshunt and the Times Group announced that they are stepping away from Facebook’s internet.org initiative today.

The Times Group will be pulling out TimesJobs and Maharashtra Times from Internet.org, and has committed to withdraw from internet.org if its direct competitors – India Today, NDTV, IBNLive, NewsHunt, and BBC – also pull out.

Prannoy Roy, Co-Founder and Executive Co-Chairperson, NDTV tweeted out that his company is also committed to net neutrality and is therefore exiting from the internet.org initiative.

Launched as an initiative to improve internet access, Internet.org is a partnership the partnership between Facebook and seven mobile phone companies, the initiative has been launched in eight countries including India since August 2013.

Facebook partnered with Reliance Communications to launch the app in India in February, the list of services on internet.org, which provides internet access to a limited portion of the internet for free, included a total of 37 websites or apps other than Facebook.

Cleartrip posted on their blog that they had withdrawn their association with internet.org entirely, saying that it was against their core DNA, and that was impossible to pretend there is no conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, the SaveTheInternet campaign has sent 600990 mails sent to TRAI, the NetNeutrality India handle reported.

A Times official is quoted as saying that supporting net neutrality creates a fair, level playing field, and the Times Group will lead the drive towards a neutral internet.

Official Statement From Times Internet Corporate Blog

“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. The group also encourages its fellow language and English news publishers - Dainik Jagran, Aaj Tak, Amar Ujala, Maalai Malar, Reuters, and Cricinfo - to join the campaign for net neutrality and withdraw from zero rate schemes.”

Official Statement From Cleartrip:

"A few weeks back, Facebook reached out and asked us to participate in the Internet.org initiative with the intention of helping us deliver one of our most affordable products to the more underserved parts of the country. There was no revenue arrangement between us and Internet.org or any of its participants — we were neither paid anything, nor did we pay anything to participate. Additionally we don't make any money out of that product. Since there was absolutely zero money changing hands, we genuinely believed we were contributing to a social cause.

But the recent debate around #NetNeutrality gave us pause to rethink our approach to Internet.org and the idea of large corporations getting involved with picking and choosing who gets access to what and how fast. What started off with providing a simple search service has us now concerned with influencing customer decision-making by forcing options on them, something that is against our core DNA.

So while our original intent was noble, it is impossible to pretend there is no conflict of interest (both real and perceived) in our decision to be a participant in Internet.org. In light of this, Cleartrip has withdrawn our association with and participation in Internet.org entirely.

We believe that the Internet is a great leveller and that freedom of the Internet is critical for innovation. Cleartrip is and always will be a fully committed supporter of #NetNeutrality."

Internet.org’s list of 38 sites includes Facebook, Wikipedia, Bing, 12 news websites excluding cricinfo.com, three job sites (babajobs, Jagran Josh, TimesJobs), and various healthcare, childcare and weather services. Here's the full list of services on Internet.org below.

Aaj Tak: Read news in Hindi
AccuWeather: Get updated weather information
amarujala.com: Read news in Hindi
AP Speaks: Engage with local government
Babajob: Search for jobs
BabyCenter & MAMA: Learn about pregnancy and childcare
BBC News: Read news from around the world
Bing Search: Find information
Cleartrip: Check train and flight schedules & buy tickets
Daily Bhaskar: Read local news
Dictionary.com: Search for meanings of words
ESPN Cricinfo: Get cricket updates
Facebook: Communicate with friends and family
Facts for Life: Find health and hygiene information
Girl Effect: Read articles and tips for girls
HungamaPlay: Listen to music
IBNLive: Read news
iLearn: Learn from Women Entrepreneurs
India Today: Read local news
Internet Basics: Learn about the basics of the Internet
Jagran: Read local news
Jagran Josh: Get education and career information
Maalai Malar: Read news in Tamil
Maharashtra Times: Read news in Marathi
Malaria No More: Learn about malaria
manoramanews.com: Read local news
Messenger: Send messages to friends and family
NDTV: Read news
Newshunt: Read news in English
OLX: Buy and sell products and services
Reliance Astrology: Read your horoscope
Reuters Market Lite: Get farming and crop information
Socialblood: Register to donate blood
Times of India: Read news
TimesJobs: Search for jobs
Translator: Translate words and phrases
Wikipedia: Find information
wikiHow: Find information

Where the net neutrality debate is headed:

Disclosure: HuffPost India is published in association with The Times of India Group


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