Attack on Free Basics
Ever since the petition for the right to Free Basics was circulated, a number of debates on its authenticity and eventual benefits have raged across social media. Last week, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a notice to Reliance Communications to temporarily suspend Facebook’s Free Basics service. India’s telecom regulator has extended the deadline for comments on differential pricing, the policy that would govern Free Basics by a week to January 7. This has prompted a campaign from Facebook to support Free Basics as well as a counter-campaign by net neutrality activists, calling for it to be banned or regulated. Certain netizens have alleged that Facebook had allegedly delivered false information about the benefits of Free Basics. It had caused such an outrage that certain netizens began “Save the Internet” campaign. There are many disadvantages to Free Basics. Facebook itself does not pay a penny to run Free Basics, and the cost is borne by the telecom operator. With rapidly increasing internet usage in India, telecom operators might, fearing bankruptcy, end up charging the user extra money. In other words, telecom operators will have to recover the cost of “free basic” apps from the non-free services. So effectively, whatever Facebook does not consider “basic” will cost more.
The matter got worse for Facebook as 50 esteemed faculty members of the Indian institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Science released a statement on Tuesday, detailing the possible ill effects of Free Basics and why should one absolutely refrain from it. They believe that Facebook’s claim of connecting India’s poor to the internet and creating jobs via the internet is absolutely false. This is mainly because the concept of Free Basics in totality is against that of the norms of net neutrality. They further added that net neutrality would only be possible when all content on the internet would be equally accessible. With Free Basics, one can only access Facebook and a few other limited services. Meanwhile, India’s telecom regulator has extended the deadline for comments on differential pricing, the policy that would govern FreeBasics by a week to January 7.