Indian Internet ruling blocks Facebook's 'Free Basics' plan

SAN FRANCISCO -- India's government has essentially banned a Facebook program that sought to connect with low-income residents by offering free access to a limited version of the social network and other Internet services.

See Full Article

The ruling is a major setback for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who had lobbied hard for the program as part of a campaign to expand Internet access in developing countries. It's a victory for critics who argued that Facebook's "Free Basics" program gave unfair advantage to some Internet services over others.

Facebook has introduced "Free Basics" in partnership with wireless carriers in dozens of emerging nations, where the company hopes to get more people online. The service provides free access to a stripped-down version of Facebook and certain other Internet sites -- including some that provide essential information like weather forecasts, health education and job listings.

But the program has sparked debate in some countries, particularly India, where critics contend that "Free Basics" effectively steers users toward Facebook and its partners, while making it harder for other Internet services -- including homegrown startups -- to build their own audiences.

In a much-awaited decision Monday, Indian regulators said telecommunications providers may not charge different or "discriminatory" rates for delivering different kinds of Internet content.

The ruling essentially bans programs like "Free Basics" that are based on what's known as "zero rating" in industry jargon, because they don't charge for downloading certain kinds of data.

In a statement, India's telecommunications regulatory authority said its decision was "guided by the principles of net neutrality," or the concept that all websites and apps should be treated equally by Internet access providers. Net neutrality advocates contend that charging different rates based on content is unfair both to consumers and to Internet services that are competing for consumers' attention.

U.S. regulators endorsed net neutrality in rules enacted last year, but those rules don't specifically ban carriers from exempting some services from data limits. The Federal Communications Commission is now studying the zero-rating issue.

Facebook said in a statement that it's disappointed with the ruling but will continue its efforts to increase Internet access. "Our goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, non-exclusive and free platform," the company said.

Zuckerberg had campaigned hard for the program, making personal visits to India and publishing an open letter in at least one newspaper there. Facebook also responded to critics of "Free Basics" last year by creating a new platform for outside developers to contribute apps for the program.

Facebook has about 130 million users in India. But like other U.S.-based Internet companies, it sees a huge opportunity to expand by reaching the estimated 1 billion Indians who don't have Internet access.

"Free Basics" is part of a broader effort, dubbed Internet.org, in which Facebook has also tried to work with phone-makers on designs that reduce data usage and extend battery life. In addition, the company is working on long-range projects to develop drones and satellites that deliver Internet service to remote areas.

Zuckerberg has acknowledged Facebook's business would benefit from gaining more users around the world, but he's also argued that Internet access is a powerful tool for economic development and improving lives in low-income regions.

AP Technology Writer Tali Arbel contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Oldest zoo gorilla doing well after biopsy before birthday

    Tech & Science CTV News
    POWELL, Ohio - The oldest known gorilla living in a zoo is doing well after a surgical biopsy ahead of her 60th birthday on Dec. 22. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said Saturday that veterinarians successfully removed a mass under the gorilla's arm that recently started causing her discomfort. Source
  • Friendly moose befriends 2 cows on Vermont farm

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SHELDON, Vt. -- A Vermont couple has chased off a moose that appeared to be bonding with their two cows on a Sheldon farm because they didn't want it to get injured, stuck in their barn or damage their fences. Source
  • Scientists gathering in Winnipeg to focus on 'complex' changing Arctic climate

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The largest single gathering of scientists focused on the rapidly changing Arctic gets underway in Winnipeg on Monday. ArcticNet 2016 will see 800 scientists from across the country gather at the RBC Convention Centre to present research on a wide array of subjects impacting the health of the biology and the physical systems of the Arctic. Source
  • Apple founder street name shakes Paris suburb to the core

    Tech & Science CTV News
    He changed technology and how the world communicates. Now, five years after he died, Apple founder Steve Jobs may be remembered in another way -- on a Paris street. "Rue Steve Jobs" is among names shortlisted for one of the new roads in the French capital's southeastern 13th arrondissement that will lead to a new incubator for hi-tech start-ups. Source
  • A sound investment for Lamborghini fans

    Tech & Science CTV News
    The Ixoost EsaVox Speaker system is inspired by a Lamborghini's quad exhaust and ventilation set up and comes with the automotive marque's seal of approval. Like the most exclusive and most extreme cars in production, the Ixoost EsaVox is hand crafted in Italy. Source
  • A planet's worth of human-made things has been weighed

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A new report has calculated the total mass of all the technology humans have produced, everything from buildings to cars and computers, and found it is an astounding 30 trillion tons. That is more than the total amount of living matter on Earth. Source
  • Is chocolate really good for you? UBC scientists make new tool to measure antioxidants

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Every chocolate lover wants the headlines about antioxidants in chocolate to be true. And, for better or for worse, determining just how much of the disease-fighting molecules are contained in this popular treat may be getting a little easier. Source
  • Canadian researchers are leading the way to Mars

    Tech & Science CBC News
    When humans one day set foot on Mars, Canadians will have contributed a lot of science to having made that happen. As Canadians, we're not known for bragging, but there are many Canadian scientists and engineers who have contributed greatly to our understanding of Mars and who are paving the way for humans to one day settle on its dusty surface. Source
  • Canadian scientists help prepare a path to Mars

    Tech & Science CBC News
    If humans one day set foot on Mars, Canadians will have contributed to the science that helped make it possible. As Canadians, we're not known for bragging, but there are many Canadian scientists and engineers who have contributed greatly to our understanding of Mars and who are preparing the path for humans to one day settle on its dusty surface. Source
  • 4 major world cities pledge to eliminate diesel vehicles

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MEXICO CITY -- Host Mexico City has joined with Paris, Madrid and Athens in committing to eliminate diesel vehicles from their cities by 2025. The C40 Mayors Summit announced the agreement Thursday. A statement said the commitment would reduce air pollution and related health issues in those cities, while also helping cities meet climate goals. Source