Mark Zuckerberg has not started 2016 on the right foot, at least as far as his project is concerned Free Basics (formerly known as Internet.org) refers to. After the closure of the service in Egypt on January 1, Mark has had to see how access to Free Basics was also blocked in India, after months of intense debates about alleged violations of net neutrality by Facebook .
The blockade comes from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), after this body decided temporarily disable the service last December while asking the social network for more details on the terms and conditions of use of Free Basics, and opened a debate with all parties involved in January.
The conclusion of this debate has been a report that, although it does not directly name Facebook or Free Basics (nor does it block access to the Facebook website itself), explicitly prohibits certain practices of Internet service providers in India – and which are the basis for how Facebook’s “free internet” works. The new rules are:
1. No provider will offer or apply discriminatory rates for content-based data services.
two. No provider will sign an agreement or contract with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory rates for data services offered or charged by the provider with the aim of circumventing the prohibition of this regulation.
3. Reduced fees are allowed to access or provide emergency services, or in times of public emergency.
Four. The corresponding fiscal disadvantages have been specified for contravening this regulation.
Applying these new rules, a service like Free Basics has no place in India, as well as other programs offered by Internet providers or mobile phone companies that make use of the so-called zero-rating, a practice by which some providers they do not charge for the use of data of their rates if they use certain applications
FACEBOOK keeps a record of ALL WEBSITES you visit so you can DEACTIVATE IT
The reason for the Free Basics blockade
The operation of Free Basics, born in 2013 as Internet.org, consists of give Internet access to the population in emerging countries, but limiting the pages which can be accessed (in the case of Free Basics, these are Facebook, Wikipedia, BBC and local news, health, education and business websites). With this project it has been possible to connect to the network more than 19 million people in almost 40 countries around the world. So at first glance it sounds good, but in this story, as in many others, there are two faces.
On the one hand, it is easy to argue that the Free Basics service is basically beneficial for the population, since it provides Internet connection to many people in developing countries, who could not otherwise afford it. This is precisely the main idea that Zuckerberg defends: “I want to personally communicate that we are committed to continue working to break down connectivity barriers in India and around the world,” Mark said yesterday in a post posted on Facebook.
On the other hand, one might wonder if with Free Basics it would not be precisely building more barriers. As in the case of Egypt, the main reason for the blockade of Free Basics in India is to maintain the net neutrality. TRAI bases its ban on the fact that the practices of Facebook and other companies merely create competitive disadvantages between web pages and online services to which they allow access and to which they do not. They are, in fact, creating a Internet “second” for those who cannot afford standard access. “We cannot create an Internet of two groups: one for the rich, one for the poor” states the World Wide Web in a statement “We must connect everyone with the full potential of an open Web.”
Zuckerberg responds to this by arguing that any Internet service can sign up to be available as well, although it is true that it has to meet quite a few conditions. The debate between “better a limited Internet than nothing” and “the neutrality of the net above all” is served.
And what will Facebook do now?
Following the TRAI’s decision, as mentioned above, Zuckerberg published a brief defending, once again, the Free Basics program. In it he assured that this blockade it won’t stop your efforts for bringing the Internet to the whole world, including India. And no wonder: India is an important country for Facebook. It is the second largest Facebook labor force (only behind the United States) and the most populous country in the world where Facebook could do business – given that the social network is totally blocked in China. Hence, Zuckerberg is not willing to just throw in the towel.
It seems that India and other developing countries are Facebook’s new goal. Given the saturation point that it seems to have reached in areas such as the United States and Europe, the emerging nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America are a new market where grow, expand and get amassed more users.
Although Zuckerberg maintains that “offering free access to the Internet without limits” is not a sustainable project, what is clear is that you will need to change the terms and conditions under which Free Basics works if you want your project to work again in the countries where it has been blocked – and not go through the same in other nations. What started almost as a science fiction idea (free Internet in emerging countries thanks to satellites and drones) may end up giving very bad public image From Facebook.
These changes could go through a function more in line with local regulations, or even the signing of agreements with more partners to exponentially multiply the content accessible through Free Basics. In any case, the TRAI’s decision will be reviewed two years from now, so that Facebook has time to think about possible alternatives that respect the standards of Net neutrality.
Other similar programs
Facebook’s Free Basics project is not the only one trying to bring Internet connectivity to developing areas. The operator Airtel, with almost 200 million customers throughout South Asia, launched a program called Airtel Zero in April 2015, by which it did not charge its users for data on their fees for using the apps of partners who had signed a agreement with Airtel.
Logically, she was also accused of attempting against net neutrality by giving advantages to some online services over others – and in accordance with the new regulations of the TRAI, you will probably have to do some modifications in its conditions of use.
Google, on the other hand, has also made its first steps in this field. In your case it is the so-called Project Loon, a project of the Google X incubator aimed at bringing Internet connectivity to rural areas and remote areas of the planet, and also in the event of natural disasters, through the use of stratospheric balloons. From the outset, and as we can read on the official website, it seems that said connection would not be limited to a few websites, but would be to the global Internet.
It remains to be verified, however, the reliability of these balloons when providing connection. Google has made test flights in unpopulated areas, adding more than 17 million kilometers and reaching a record of permanence in the air of the balloons of almost 200 days (in March 2015). The next thing, according to Google+, is to start the first internet connection tests in Indonesia this same year, thanks to an agreement signed with three local operators. That’s when we can see if Google follows in Facebook’s footsteps, or opts for a more respectful stance with net neutrality.
In Genbeta | Facebook closes its free internet service in Egypt