Daily Management Review

Facebook’s Free Basics Program Blocked in India as Net Neutrality Rues Introduced


Facebook’s Free Basics Program Blocked in India as Net Neutrality Rues Introduced
In what came as a face blow to Facebook’s plan to offer free basic program to net users in India, the regulators in the country have banned free mobile data programs that favor some Internet services over others.
Facebook’s controversial Free Basics program, a signature project of Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg were essentially blocked by the regulations that were issued Monday after months of intense public debate over how to extend the Internet to India’s poorest citizens.
Free access to a text-only version of the Facebook social network as well as to certain news, health, job and other services are offered to mobile users by Facebook in three dozen countries around the world. this  the Facebook claims is its way to help the people who poor and the technologically unskilled connect to the potential of the internet.
Facebook began offering Free Basics last year through Reliance Communications, a local mobile phone carrier, in India where the company already has at least 132 million users.
However critics said that the free basics program was an attempt to steer unsophisticated new Internet users to Facebook and other services that were working with the company and the program soon feel through with many critics who came down heavily against it. The concept of net neutrality, which says that Internet providers should provide equal access to all web content, was being violated by the Free Basic program and other “zero rating” programs by Fcaebook, the critics argued.  

In the United States, where the Federal Communications Commission is studying whether zero-rated services comply with its own net neutrality rules, there is a raging controversy and debate over the issue as it is many other countries.
Mobile phone companies should not be allowed to “shape the users’ Internet experience” by providing free access only to certain services, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said in its policy document.

Such programs have great power to shape a newcomer’s whole view of the Internet since most Indians are not yet online, the agency noted.
“This can prove to be risky in the medium to long term as the knowledge and outlook of those users would be shaped only by the information made available through those select offerings,” the agency wrote.
In addition to writing an opinion piece in The Times of India Zuckerberg had personally lobbied against the new rules. The company ran special banners in the news feeds of Indian users urging them to petition the government to allow Free Basics as well as spent millions of dollars on advertising to promote its position.
 “Our goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, nonexclusive and free platform. While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the Internet and the opportunities it brings,” Facebook said in a statement on Monday.
There are several programs to expand Internet access in India that Facebook is associated with which includes a program to bring cheap Wi-Fi to rural villages.
There are many other means that the Indian mobile phone companies can still expand internet access, said the regulators.
“Providing limited free data that enables a user to access the entire Internet is not prohibited,” they wrote.
(Source:www.reuters.com & www.nytimes.com) 

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