Facebook’s controversial Free Basics service has now been permanently blocked by Indian regulators. Free Basics, one of Mark Zuckerberg dream projects, offers free but limited access to the Internet on mobile devices.
Free Basics not good for Internet newcomers
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said such services should not be allowed to play a role in shaping newcomers’ experience of the Internet.
“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 TRAI said.
The TRAI said it does not prohibit the provision of limited free data to users which enable them to access the entire Internet. The agency’s decision disappointed Zuckerberg, as he said he plans “to keep working to break down barriers to connectivity in India and around the world.
In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg said that connecting India is an important goal for the company and that he is not going to give up on it easily as Internet access is not available to more than a billion people in India.
“We know that connecting them can help lift people out of poverty, create millions of jobs and spread education opportunities,” Zuckerberg said.
Facebook, Free Basics and India
Free Basics gives users in the developing world free access to Facebook and other select websites on mobile devices. The social media giant started providing the service in India last year, but it quickly came under fire as it was against the principle of net neutrality, which states that Internet providers should give equal access to all content on the Internet.
India, with a population of 1.2 billion, is an important market for U.S. tech companies such as Facebook, which has 130 million users India–second only to the U.S. The U.S. firm campaigned for Free Basics in India with Zuckerberg personally writing blogs in favor of the service.
Previously, Zuckerberg said Free Basics should be welcomed in India as an open platform since it will partner with any telco and allows developers to offer their services for free to people. Instead, regulators are banning it on false claims that people will be left with fewer choices as a result of Free Basics.