Monday, 15 February, 2016

Indian regulators block Facebook's 'Free Basics' service

TRAI rules against differential pricing of internet services which could be seen as a direct blow to Facebook’s Free Basics TRAI rules against differential pricing of internet services which could be seen as a direct blow to Facebook’s Free Basics
Elliot Roberts | 14 February, 2016, 14:27

Last year, Indian net neutrality activists argued that Free Basics was a way for Facebook to shape internet access.

Facebook's Free Basics internet service program has been blocked by India's telecoms regulator included in a ruling in favour of web neutrality. In response to suggestions that the program should allow for unrestricted access to the internet, he said: "Free Basics isn't limited to Facebook". But like other U.S.-based Internet companies, it sees a huge opportunity to expand by reaching the estimated 1 billion Indians who don't have Internet access.

The move capped a lengthy tug-of-war between Facebook and India's Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI), which believes that Free Basics compromises net neutrality, the idea that Internet users should be granted equal access to all content.

Critics of Free Basics, which had been suspended temporarily while the regulator's consultation was ongoing, include many of India's leading technology entrepreneurs. In a statement released by the social media site, it said, "Will continue efforts to bring more people online".

Mobile carriers and broadband providers have been banned to charge their clients according to the services and content they have access to on the Internet. Once it resumed Facebook embarked on a $45m promotional spree for Free Basics in newspaper ads and on billboards. We know that for every 10 people connected to the Internet, roughly one is lifted out of poverty.

The "Free Basics" concept was marketed by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg himself. This program was billed as a way for the poor and technologically unskilled to access the internet's potential. "We care about these people, and that's why we're so committed to connecting them", he said.

Facebook has been working on various projects to try and expand internet access throughout India including a program which brings cheap Wi-Fi into rural villages.

More than 19 million people in 38 countries have been connected through Facebook's different programmes.

"We must connect everyone to the full potential of the open Web".

TRAI has said, mobile phone companies in India may still continue expanding internet access using other means though.

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