India’s telecommunication officials just blocked Facebook’s Free Basic service in a bid to support “net neutrality” in the country.
The decision came in the wake of nearly a year of conflict between Facebook and the country’s Internet activists, who claim Free Basic violates “Internet neutrality” by favoring some services over other. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had been trying to determine whether some online content should be offered for free while other was not and has decided that defining the nature of access “would be equivalent of letting TSPs shape the users’ internet experience.”
Vikas Pandey, digital producer for BBC in India, said there have been aggressive publicity campaigns from both sides, with Facebook taking out huge front page newspaper ads to defend its service.
"The people who live in cities and are aggressive users of the Internet said: 'You can't dictate the terms, give free internet to villagers and then tell them how to use it,'" he said.
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The Free Basic service package includes Facebook, weather forecasts, Wikipedia, BBC and some health sites. The services — lightweight versions of the originals — are available in 36 countries and can load quickly on 2G and 3G networks.
Facebook claims it brought “free” Internet through this feature to more than 19 million users worldwide who were unable to afford access before — and in a bid to eradicate discriminatory tariffs for data services based on content, millions of users in India are left without access at all.
Excellent that people who have access to the internet have successfully decided what's good for the people who don't have it. #NetNeutrality— Ramesh Srivats (@rameshsrivats) February 8, 2016
The social media network’s founder Mark Zuckerberg expressed his disappointment in a Facebook post and vowed to continue his aggressive efforts to promote universal connectivity of the Internet.
Zuckerberg has previously stated that it is not sustainable to “offer the whole of Internet for free.”
Last year, Egypt also banned the Free Basic service, which was being used by more than 1 million people in the country.