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FB’s Free Basics was helping a dominant player: Vodafone

Stressing on providing fair Internet access to consumers, Vodafone Group chief Vittorio Colao on Monday alleged that Facebook's Free Basics programme was helping just "one dominant player" in India. Facebook had partnered with telecom operator Reliance Communications in India to roll out its Free Basics programme that offered free access to basic Internet services through selected partner websites. But the programme met with severe criticism in India as critics saw this as violation of the principle of net neutrality that states that entire Internet should be available to everyone on equal terms.

Earlier this month, Facebook shut down the controversial programme. "The important thing for me is always to preserve fairness as you know we were not part of the Facebook experiment... I had always said that I found that model was disproportionately helping one already dominant player. So to me, rather than saying this model is good, this is bad, it's really to say which model allows more competition, more services," Colao said here.

He was replying to questions about ban on zero-rated data plans put by India's telecom sectoral regulator Trai. He, however, said zero rating could be good in some places like in the education sector. Asked if zero rating should be allowed, he said, "It depends on context and fairness of access. I think education for example... I don't think anybody will object to that."

Backing net neutrality, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had barred operators from charging different rates for Internet access based on content, dealing a blow to Facebook's controversial Free Basics and other such plans. The regulation implied that operators will have to charge the same price for data used, irrespective of website or app accessed by the consumer.

"The Indian regulator has clearly said that it does not want one big player to take advantage versus others but this is an evolving matter and we will have different opinions in different parts of the world," Colao said.
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