Facebook’s Free Basics put on hold in India
Facebook’s self-serving Free Basics initiative is finally being put on hold in India after several complaints from net neutrality advocates. Reliance — Facebook’s carrier partner for Free Basics — has announced that it received a notice from the country’s telecom regulator TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) to stop the service until it reaches a deliberation later this month.
According to the TRAI: “We have asked them (Reliance Communications) to stop it and they have given us a compliance report that it has been stopped. The question has arisen whether a telecom operator should be allowed to have differential pricing for different kinds of content. Unless that question is answered, it will not be appropriate for us to continue to make that happen.“
SaveTheInternet, a campaign to promote net neutrality in India, said that as the social network does not pay for usage charges from Free Basics, it is ultimately the users that end up paying: Facebook doesn’t pay for Free Basics, telecom operators do. Where do they make money from? From users who pay. By encouraging people to choose Free Basics, Facebook reduces the propensity to bring down data costs for paid Internet access.
TRAI is seeking comments from consumers on differential pricing by carriers, and will reveal its findings early next month. In addition, a parliamentary body is also laying out the guidelines for net neutrality in the country, which will dictate how platforms such as Free Basics function in India.