How Free Facebook & Promos are killing Philippine Internet
Net Neutrality, as Wikipedia defines it, is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. This is a fundamental principle of keeping the internet open for all.
People don’t discuss it in the Philippines, because it is, after all, a very unpopular topic. All the telcos give us these free data add-ons for platforms, and in turn, we are expected to appreciate them for it – when in reality, we should just expect more data allocations and speed instead of free stuff.
But why should we say no to free stuff? Well, if we’re avid users of the brand, then it should be a win situation for us technically, but indirectly, we’re just feeding more power and money to the already bigger companies. If we dissect it, it’s a data promo from an already big Telco with Free Facebook (a massive tech company) and more from also big brands such as Spotify, Viber and Snapchat. By default, we are being pushed to get into these services, and from the perspective of small platforms and app developers, they are already be discriminated.
We should be able to get 150 MB of Spotify for the same price of 150 MB of another music streaming platform.
We should be able to get 150 MB of Spotify for the same price of 150 MB of another music streaming platform. (We all know this in another form: telcos themselves.) If our business environment discourages small competitors to compete with the bigger brands, we might soon be in the mercy of bigger brands.
So let’s look at Facebook’s Free Basics & Internet.Org. It’s no longer a hot topic, but we guess it would also be just right to bring it up to educate people on the background. A lot of advocates for Net Neutrality have been at war with Facebook, since its initiative to deliver internet to developing countries such as the Philippines, discriminates against other services by not including them in their efforts. Facebook claims that it just wants to connect people, but other groups of people see it another way.
In fact, it’s also a talk worth bringing up now because of Facebook’s efforts to enter video, and now more into ads & news with Instant Articles. Because Facebook is free, other services such as YouTube and other video content creators can face difficulty getting their content across, and their revenue will be affected.
And of course, this only makes Facebook richer.
The same is the story for online publishers such as us. By changing algorithms, Facebook has more bargaining power towards us so that publishers have to pay for Facebook’s Promoted Posts. When using Instant Articles, Facebook is able to monetize content that they didn’t really create. Once again, since Facebook is free – who would want to go out of the platform if they don’t have data to do so?
Free Facebook & Affordable Add-On Promos are not steps forward
This isn’t a first world problem. In fact, it’s mostly a third world problem because we are the ones planting the seeds to grow into a wider network — and these companies want to control that future. India has already said yes to net neutrality, and they’ve banned Free Basics, so what should stop us from fighting against this too?
Regulation is key here, and we really need people who are well-versed with the topic to form regulations from the government. A fully neutral internet means ISPs won’t discriminate against any form of data – even torrenting, porn and other controversial internet topics – but that is a topic for an entirely different article. The point is still simple and it still stands – ISPs are discriminating against smaller platforms.
We’re not against Free Access to the internet. In fact, we want affordable to free data if the internet is a right. However, if one internet platform is free, then the rest should be as well. If 500 MB of Spotify Data is Php100, then any form of 500MB data should be Php100. Instead of asking for free stuff and add-ons, pressure our ISPs to provide overall faster and cheaper internet. Pressure our government to regulate the telcos and the internet. If you can, go outside the bigger platforms and support other good ones, even at a cost.
This fight is worth it, because we don’t want a discriminating internet in the future.