GerardM writes:

> With Wikipedia Zero people have access to knowledge that they would not
> have otherwise. It is well established that having information readily
> available is an important indicator for further development. Not having
> Wikipedia available is absolutely a worse situation than having it.
> [...]
> My answer is sure HOWEVER given that the objective of Wikipedia is to share
> in the sum of all knowledge, your argument is decidedly secondary. Sources
> may be important but they are secondary to having the information available
> in the first place. As long as we have sources in full blown Wikipedia, as
> long as it is WMF that provides the Wikipedia Zero content... what is your
> point. Yes, ideally we want people to ensure that people know about
> sources. When sources are just statements of fact and they are in turn not
> accessible because of cost. What is your point in practical terms?
> Wikipedia Zero is very much a fulfillment of our aspirations. Do not forget
> who you are: white, privileged and well educated. What you propose is
> taking away something that you take for granted. Not nice.

I agree with everything Gerard says here. My mission as a Wikimedian,
both during my tenure as an employee of the Wikimedia Foundation and
in my time as a volunteer Wikimedian, has been to get the world's
knowledge into everybody's hands for free. Wikipedia Zero is so
consistent with this primary goal that I value it even more highly
than network neutrality (which I also favor, as a general rule, in
countries with developed and humanely priced internet services).

It should be noted that the Federal Communications Commission, in its
recent Report and Order requiring network neutrality for American
telcos and service providers, expressly refused to draw a categorical
conclusion whether zero-rated services (including Wikipedia Zero)
harmed competition. Instead, the Commission said it would make
case-by-case determinations based on the particular services each
zero-rated service is providing. If it were shown that Wikipedia Zero
is suppressing competition from other encyclopedic knowledge bases or
suppressing sharing of knowledge, that would be something for the
Commission to consider -- but of course there are no facts that
support this argument, at least not yet.

I've spent the last two years working on internet-policy issues in
developing countries, from Myanmar to Cambodia to South Sudan, and my
personal experience has been that Wikipedia Zero is a profoundly
important developmental resource in developing countries, where the
key barrier to Wikipedia access (as a user or contributor) is the data
caps on the mobile devices that the vast majority of users need to get
access to the internet. Wikipedia Zero gets us past that barrier in
these countries. Yes, in an ideal world, perhaps, there might be an
argument against privileging Wikipedia Zero in this way -- but in an
ideal world everybody would have free access to Wikipedia already.

To get to an ideal world, we'll need everyone to have access to
Wikipedia (and to Wikimedia resources generally) -- not just those of
us in developed countries, but to everyone everywhere. Wikipedia Zero
is a strategic approach to expanding access for everybody in every
country. As we do this, we'll be creating incentives for developing
countries' telcos and internet providers to expand their access and
facilities in ways that will enable more and more citizens to fully
participate as users and contributors to Wikipedia. Any other approach
reminds me of the beginning chess player who looks at a board prior to
the first move and says "how do I get to checkmate from here?" The
experienced chess player knows you have to make a number of strategic
decisions and deployments in advance in order to make eventual victory
possible.  Wikipedia Zero is one strategy that gets us to the end
result we all want to see.

Best regards,

--Mike Godwin
WMF General Counsel 1007-2010
Director of Innovation Policy and General Counsel, The R Street Institute

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