Newspaper article International New York Times

Zuckerberg Tries to Sell Initiative for Free Internet Access

Newspaper article International New York Times

Zuckerberg Tries to Sell Initiative for Free Internet Access

Article excerpt

Mark Zuckerberg said Internet.org, an effort to allow people in developing markets to access Facebook and other applications for free, would ultimately bring revenue to the carriers.

In front of a packed audience here, Mark Zuckerberg turned on the charm.

Mr. Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, outlined on Monday why he thought that Internet.org, a service backed by the social network that is intended to provide people in emerging markets with free access to some online applications, would help telecommunications carriers persuade customers to spend more on streaming content to their cellphones.

The service, which is now offered in countries including Paraguay and Zambia, allows individuals to access Facebook and a limited number of other applications free. Carriers hope that this access -- often the first time that people have surfed the web -- will lead them to spend money on separate data packages.

"Growing the Internet is expensive work," Mr. Zuckerberg, dressed in jeans and a gray T-shirt, told an audience at the Mobile World Congress, an industry conference that has become an annual global event where telecom operators talk shop. "The only way to accelerate that is to help operators to grow their business."

His words are part of efforts to quell growing disquiet among some carriers, particularly in Western countries, that believe Facebook, Google and other Internet companies are taking unfair advantage of carriers' mobile networks.

Industry executives say that these Internet services, which are used by billions of individuals each day, do not invest in the costly infrastructure required so that people can access applications on their smartphones. Some also say that the likes of Facebook, which now holds a dominant position in Internet messaging after buying Whatsapp last year for $19 billion, do not face the same tough regulations as traditional operators. …

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