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Blow to Internet.org as it loses Cleartrip, Times Internet, NDTV and NewsHunt

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Amid growing support for net neutrality in India, several Internet companies have pulled out of Facebook and Reliance Communications’ zero-rating platform Internet.org. Cleartrip, Times Internet, NDTV and NewsHunt, who had signed on as partners with Facebook’s initiative, have announced their support for net neutrality and appealed to other Internet companies to do the same.

Cleartrip explained on its blog why it had signed on with Internet.org and says that Facebook reached out and asked them to participate in the Internet.org initiative with the intention of helping them deliver one of their 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,” the company added.

Times Internet said that TimesJobs and Maharashtra Times will pull out of Internet.org as its competitors are not on zero-rate platforms. The company added that it would pull out the Times of India application if its its direct competitors – India Today, NDTV, IBNLive, NewsHunt, and BBC – also pull out. NewsHunt replied on Twitter and said that it exited the Internet.org deal last week.



“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,” Times Internet said on its blog.

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Meanwhile media house NDTV co-founder tweeted that the broadcaster is leaving Internet.org.

Earlier, e-commerce major Flipkart also pulled out of a similar zero-rating platform offered by Airtel and said that it was committed to upholding net neutrality and would actively look to promote the same and it seems that they’re keeping their word.

Earlier in February, Facebook and Reliance Communications had partnered to offer free data access to about 40 Internet services  to Reliance customers through Internet.org. Initially these services, which will also include free access to Facebook, will be available to Reliance customers in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Chennai, Tamil Nadu and Kerala telecom circles.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been aggresively pushing for the adoption of Internet.org as a means of philanthropy and getting the billion people on the Internet. Zuckerberg in a comment on Facebook said that Internet.org could co-exist with net neutrality regulations.

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Other support net neutrality who are not zero rated

–  Branded budget hotel rooms marketplace OYO Rooms is also currently running a Facebook campaign to show their support for Net Neutrality.

– Healthcare technology company Practo on its blog too expressed its stand on net neutrality and said that it does not “believe in locking up the internet.”

– Online coupon service Groupon and mobile wallet and marketplace Paytm have been in support for net neutrality.

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