Facebook’s Internet.org efforts “have now helped almost 100 million people get access to the internet who may not have had it otherwise,” according to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO.
Ironically, this form of sponsored access is among the practices many “network neutrality” supporters want to outlaw. After all, giving users “no charge” access to a suite of popular apps--but not the “full internet”--does not “treat all bits and apps the same.”
That is among the objections some of us have to strong forms of network neutrality. Consumers should have full access to all lawful apps. That is among the original ways that neutrality originally was conceived, and still makes sense today.
But it has never made sense to some that, in addition to that openness, access providers should be legally barred from offering sponsored access, in the same way that internet.org works, or the way “toll-free calling” has been lawful in the voice business.
App providers routinely use content delivery networks--paid-for services not available to every app provider--to provide better quality of service. In principle, in at least some cases, it makes sense to allow use of content delivery mechanisms to provider better quality of service over access connections, as well as over backbone networks.
There are other advantages for app providers, as well as end users. Caching content at the edge of the network not only provides better user experience, but cuts the cost of internet transit services app providers must buy to support app access.
When content is locally based, app providers do not have to buy as much capacity across the internet backbone. That might be one reason internet transit revenue has dwindled in recent years, even as consumer bandwidth demand skyrockets.