Monday, 18 January, 2016

Facebook's Free Basics service shut down Egypt

Free Basic logo Free Basic logo
Elliot Roberts | 09 January, 2016, 03:22

Now the problem for this is that we had asked for a response to the specific question of differential pricing... instead, we have got responses on supporting Free Basics. "We have given them extra days and appeal to them to frame responses to our questions, giving specific reasons", Sharma told ET.

India's telecom regulator has received over 14 lakh responses in support of Facebook's contentious Free Basics platform, but virtually all were redundant for formulating a policy as the regulator had sought views on the principle of differential pricing for data services, not the Free Basics initiative per se. The deadline for comments on the paper was ending today. The deadlines won't be extended again, it added.

The regulator is set to hold a hearing on Internet neutrality in January.

The development comes after Facebook's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg robustly defended the programme in an editorial for the Times of India, and said that Free Basics "fully respects net neutrality". Since most of the responses did not answer the questions posed by the TRAI, these responses are of no use to the regulator. Trai has received about 16.5 lakh comments-the highest ever on any paper floated by it till date, sources said. Consequently, there is no need to write back to them. According to TRAI, over 3.8 lakh people have sent emails in support of net neutrality.

Facebook didn't respond to an emailed request for comment. One way it's doing that is through Free Basics, where it provides free access to a select group of Internet services and websites.

This push has generated significant controversy, particularly in India, where critics say the effort is forcing users into a version of the Internet that is mediated entirely by Facebook.

"The objective of offering such schemes is claimed to be the desire of various service/content/platform providers to enable consumers, especially the poor, to access certain content on the internet free of charge", the sector regulator said.

He said, therefore, people should refer to the comments specifically, after the reading the Consultation Paper properly.

The service was suspended in India last week.

He, however, did not elaborate if the people did not reply to Trai, the comments on Free Basics would be termed invalid. SlideShare co-founder Amit Ranjan tweeted: "Facebook has egg on its face now!" while Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma tweeted, "Respect Trai".