Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Facebook's "Free Basics" Banned in India

Free Basics in India
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) effectively banned Facebook's "Free Basics" program from the country, ruling that the system and others like it violate the principles of net neutrality. The move effectively prevents "zero-rating" schemes in which certain Web services count against data caps while others do not.

Facebook is partnering with mobile operators in various countries to offer Free Basics, saying that the app provides "access to basic websites for free — like news, job postings, health and education information, and communication tools like Facebook."

Any developer can try to get a website included, but Facebook imposes restrictions, including one that prevents high-bandwidth services like VoIP, video, and file transfers. In addition to Facebook, Free Basics includes AccuWeather, BBC News,, ESPN, and other sites.

Critics say Free Basics violates net neutrality principles by prioritizing certain content, making it less likely that people will use websites not included in the app. India had temporarily banned Free Basics and followed up with a new rule that prevents service providers from charging "discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content." A discriminatory tariff under this rule includes free data applied only to certain websites.

The rule applies to telecom operators rather than Facebook, but it would prevent Facebook from partnering with mobile operators to offer apps that don't count against mobile data caps. Operators who violate the rule can be fined. One exception to the rule allows free access to emergency services.

Because most residents of India are not yet connected to the Internet, mobile operators should not be allowed to "shape the users' Internet experience," TRAI wrote. As more people gain Internet access, their usage should be "shaped only by the information made available through those select offerings," the agency said.

It's a big setback for Facebook's program, which looks to provide basic connectivity to poor nations — but in a recent post, Mark Zuckerberg said the ruling would not push out of India entirely. "Our mission is to make the world more open and connected," Zuckerberg wrote. "That mission continues, and so does our commitment to India."

No comments:

Post a Comment