Indian regulator deals blow to Facebook's 'Free Basics' Internet plan

India's telecom regulator on Monday dealt a blow to Facebook's plans to offer free mobile Internet through its controversial Free Basics service, by outlawing differential pricing for data packages.

See Full Article

Facebook has suffered a fierce backlash in India from "net neutrality" advocates.

They say that because Free Basics only allows access to selected websites, albeit free, it violates the principle that the entire Internet should be available to everyone on equal terms.

While not ruling explicitly on net neutrality, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) decided not to allow what it called "discriminatory pricing" for different data platforms or content.

The regulator's ruling suggests that Free Basics, which was aimed mainly at millions of people in India's poor rural areas, will not be allowed to continue in its current form.

"Today we have come out with a regulation which essentially mandates that no service provider shall charge differential pricing on the basis of application, platforms or websites or sources," Ram Sewak Sharma, chairman of TRAI, told reporters.

"Anything on the Internet cannot be differentially priced, that's the broad point we've made in the regulation and that's where it stands," he said.

On a visit to New Delhi in October, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg spoke of his desire to help "the next billion" -- the approximate number of Indians without the Internet -- get online.

The technology giant had mounted an emotive advertising campaign via newspapers and text messages in India, asking people to lobby the regulator not to bar Free Basics.

India's 1.2 billion people make it a vitally important market for Facebook, which is still locked out of China.

"While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the Internet and the opportunities it brings," a Facebook spokesperson said after the ruling.

Critics of Free Basics, which had been suspended while the regulator's consultation was continuing, include many of India's leading technology entrepreneurs, with activists describing it as a "poor Internet for poor people".

The TRAI's ruling was a clear victory for net neutrality advocates, who seek to prevent companies from restricting access to the Internet, with the regulator saying it had been "guided by the principles of net neutrality".

It added that it sought "to ensure that consumers get unhindered and non-discriminatory access to the Internet".

There may be exemptions to the ruling allowing for free or cheaper data packages in case of emergencies, TRAI said, adding that the policy may be reviewed every two years or sooner.

A spokesman for mobile operator Reliance Communications, Facebook's partner for Free Basics, declined to comment.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Public viewing of John Glenn in Ohio to extend for 8 hours

    Tech & Science CTV News
    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Members of the public will be given eight hours Friday to pay their respects to John Glenn as the late astronaut-hero lies in state at Ohio's capitol building. A spokesman said Saturday that Glenn would lie in repose in the Statehouse Rotunda from noon to 8 p.m. Source
  • The Last Guardian review: Fumito Ueda’s PS4 game a thing of beauty

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    Nine years is a long time to wait for something. And nine years is an especially long time to anticipate something, if you can appreciate the difference. The Last Guardian, out this week for the PlayStation 4, was officially announced nine years ago. Source
  • Down but not out: BlackBerry still has projects up its sleeve

    Tech & Science CTV News
    In spite of meager sales figures, BlackBerry could soon release a new smartphone, once again running Google's Android OS and with a physical keyboard. The firm has also developed an innovative Internet of Things security solution for business. Source
  • Samsung to disable Note 7 phones in recall effort

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Samsung announced Friday it would disable its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in the U.S. market to force remaining owners to stop using the devices, which were recalled for safety reasons. The South Korean electronics giant, the world's biggest smartphone vendor, said 93 percent of Note 7 phones in the United States had been returned to the company after its recall earlier this year, which came amid reports of devices exploding or catching fire. Source
  • Climate change film 'An Inconvenient Truth' gets a sequel

    Tech & Science CTV News
    LOS ANGELES - Al Gore's climate change documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," is getting a sequel. Paramount Pictures said Friday the follow-up to the Oscar-winning original will premiere at next January's Sundance Film Festival. In the new documentary, former Vice-President Gore examines global warming's escalation and the solutions at hand, Paramount said. Source
  • 'This game is not over yet:' Arctic researcher has hope we can turn corner on climate change

    Tech & Science CBC News
    John England, the Canadian scientist who this week won the $50,000 Weston Family prize for northern research, compares the Arctic to a "great behavioural bath" — in which immersion can help one shed the accumulated "barnacles" of modern life. Source
  • World's oldest seabird, a 66-year-old albatross, expecting chicks

    Tech & Science CTV News
    This Nov. 28, 2015 photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows the world's oldest known seabird, Wisdom, right, tending to an egg she laid, with her mate, at Midway Atoll, a wildlife refuge about 1,200 miles northwest of Honolulu. Source
  • Scientists hunt for carbon monoxide poisoning antidote

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Scientists are on the trail of a potential antidote for carbon monoxide poisoning, an injected "scavenger" that promises to trap and remove the gas from blood within minutes. It's very early-stage research — but a reminder that, however it turns out, there are steps people should take now to protect themselves from this silent killer. Source
  • Virtual reality a sickening experience

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A new study has found that many people — especially women — who use virtual reality 3D goggles, experience motion sickness after 15 minutes of use. As the technology becomes more common, wearers will have to adapt to the new sensations the way sailors and astronauts do on the seas and in space. Source
  • Third-ever natural quasicrystal found in Siberian meteorite

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Scientists have discovered an incredibly rare and unusual crystal, known as a quasicrystal, in a meteorite previously found in Siberia in 2011. While there are over 100 lab-made quasicrystals, this crystal, identified in a new paper published Thursday in Scientific Reports, is the first quasicrystal to be found in naturethat wasn’t previously also discovered in a lab. Source