TRAI hits back
Ever since the petition for Facebook’s Free Basics had been circulated, it has given rise to a number of debates all over the country regarding its authenticity and eventual benefits. Hence, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had decided to interfere although the regulatory process continued. TRAI had issued a notice to Reliance Communications to temporarily suspend Facebook’s controversial Free Basics services. They were alleged to deliver wrong information to the extent that there was a social media outburst called “Save the Internet” after the campaign was first announced. The hue and cry over the false policies of Free Basics had increased to an extent where a majority had begun voicing their opinions against this initiative on social media. To compound matters, 50 esteemed faculty members of IIT and the Indian Institute of Science released a statement recently stating the possible ill effects of Free Basics and why people should refrain from it. The research conducted by the faculty states that Facebook’s claim of connecting the poor in India and creating jobs via the internet is absolutely false. The very architecture of Free Basics is against that of the norms of net neutrality.
In a series of e-mail exchanges made public on January 19, TRAI delivered a scathing indictment of Facebook’s lobbying practices. It accused the company of converting the regulator’s consultation process into a “crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll” and willfully disregarding its request to better inform Facebook’s users. A regulator from TRAI also spoke about how Facebook utilised its platform to make people sign up to Free Basics and send it to TRAI without having a transparent explanation of the overall platform. This in the eyes of many, including social media activists, was termed as an attempt to cheat people. Free Basics had begun to decline when TRAI rejected the 14 lakh responses that Facebook had initially submitted. TRAI on rejection stated that the responses need to be more transparent and asked for fresh applications extending the date largely. However, the important part of the whole story remains that the Government is not hoodwinked by Facebook.