Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg made a personal appeal to allow a free Internet service in one of leading newspapers of India, and this has stirred up a controversy and invited questions from regulators. Net neutrality is at the center of the backlash in India. The principle states that all Internet websites should be equally accessible.
Free Basics against net neutrality?
Facebook’s proposed Free Basics plan will allow users access to the social network and other services such as education, health care, and employment listings from their phones without requiring a data plan. This proposal has attracted criticism from activists, who claim that it threatens the principles of net neutrality and will lead to pricing changes in India for access to different websites.
Facebook, the world’s largest social networking company, has also been accused of favoring a limited group of Internet services and excluding rival services. There are more than a billion people on the social network, and it is largely believed that Facebook’s broader Internet.org initiative, including Free Basics, will help draw more users onto the platform.
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Mahesh Murthy, a venture capitalist, told Bloomberg, “We haven’t got a problem with free Internet as long as it’s open to all. Free Basics is just a way of locking in users into the Facebook ecosystem. There’s no Google, no YouTube.”
It’s for the greater good: Facebook
Facebook is spending billions of dollars on the Internet.org initiative, which includes projects to deliver web services with the help of drones, satellites and lasers to areas with no Internet access.
In a recent opinion piece in the Times of India (TOI), Zuckerberg wrote that neither the company nor its partners intend to make money from this initiative but that they have a goal of bringing Internet access to the developing world and free it from poverty. He added that losing access to free basic services means losing access to the opportunities the Internet offers today.
In a consultation paper this month, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) asked whether the practice of charging different prices for data usage on websites, applications and platforms should be allowed for telecommunications service providers or not. The comment period for the consultation paper ends Wednesday.