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

  • Human-made chemicals found in higher quantities in deep ocean

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Human-made chemicals are penetrating deeper into the North Atlantic, a new study has found. Remember CFCs? Production of the ozone-depleting chemicals was largely phased out globally in 1994. But almost 25 years later, researchers are finding them in increasing amounts in the deeper, "older" parts of the ocean. Source
  • 'O Canada': Researcher mounts microscopic flag on penny to celebrate 150 years

    Tech & Science CBC News
    It's the smallest tribute to Canada that you'll ever see. McMaster University research engineer Travis Casagrande has carved a microscopic, 3D Canadian flag on the face of a penny. The carving — which is one one-hundredth the size of a human hair and invisible to the naked eye — is meant to be a celebration of Canada's 150th birthday this year, and a showcase of the microscopes at the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy at the university. Source
  • No public memorial for Harambe planned as Cincinnati Zoo looks ahead

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CINCINNATI -- No public events are planned at the Cincinnati Zoo marking the one-year anniversary of the shooting of an endangered gorilla. The zoo's dangerous-animal response team concluded the life of a 3-year-old boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure last May 28 was in danger and killed 17-year-old Harambe. Source
  • If U.S. quits climate deal, Earth expected to warm dangerously

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming even sooner if the U.S. retreats from its pledge to cut carbon dioxide pollution, scientists said. That's because America contributes so much to rising temperatures. Source
  • Mother of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick killed in boat accident

    Tech & Science CTV News
    FRESNO, Calif. -- The mother of the CEO of the ride-hailing company Uber died in a boat accident Friday evening in Fresno County, the company said. Bonnie Kalanick, 71, died after the boat she and her husband, Donald, 78, were riding hit a rock in Pine Flat Lake in the eastern part of the county, authorities said. Source
  • G7 leaders agree to fight protectionism, U.S. still not on board on climate agreement

    Tech & Science CBC News
    U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to include a pledge to fight trade protectionism in a final communique due to be released later on Saturday at the end of a summit of Group of Seven leaders, a G7 source said. Source
  • Selfies with seal pups a no-no: U.S. science agency

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- U.S. officials are warning people not to take selfies with seals, no matter how tempting. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries office says seal pupping season is underway in New England and that means people might see seal pups on the beach during Memorial Day weekend. Source
  • Planting trees can't counter carbon emissions: Bob McDonald

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A new report from the Potsdam Institute in Germany shows that planting trees and other plants to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere cannot substitute for cutting carbon emissions. Growing trees and other kinds of "biomass" have been thought of as an effective countermeasure against our rising global carbon emissions. Source
  • Secretive Facebook project wants to turn thoughts to text

    Tech & Science CBC News
    more stories from this episodeThe Manchester bombing and the resilience of teenage girlsOntario Regional Chief says Thunder Bay can't keep Indigenous youth safeJustin Bieber, 'Despacito' and the rise of reggaeton in North American popRyan McMahon's 12-step guide to decolonizing CanadaSecretive Facebook project wants to turn thoughts to text'Party crashers' try to swing the Conservative leadership to Michael ChongRiffed from the Headlines 27/05/2017Full Episode Source
  • Ontario community's work to prevent turtles, snakes being killed a model for others

    Tech & Science CTV News
    A rural Ontario community's work to prevent endangered reptiles from being killed on a 3.6-kilometre stretch of road -- once considered among the world's deadliest for turtles -- is being held up as a successful example of how to protect vulnerable wildlife. Source