Access to the Internet is without a doubt one of the biggest drivers for social and economic development worldwide. Zero-rating services such as Facebook’s FreeBasics and Wikipedia Zero offer – though limited– a doorway into our digital world, especially in areas that are currently still underserved. However, these services are highly controversial and topical in the debate on how to bring the next billion online – an effort of governments, international development organisations and private companies alike.
So is a little Internet better than nothing at all? Are there "good" zero-rating services that are in the public interest – and what constitutes the bad ones? To add another layer: What happens if content providers not only offer free products but also provide the infrastructure to use them? And, most importantly, which implications do these services have for the people who use zero-rating products – especially for their ability to enjoy their human rights online?
The panel will dive into these questions using recent examples from the EU, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Chile to illustrate the debate. Based on that, it will try to identify adequate and useful approaches to answer the pressing calls for access while still satisfying the need for a free and open Internet governed by human rights.