Free Basics news: Facebook withdraws free limited-Internet offering in India

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Facebook’s free limited-Internet offering to India was blocked by net neutrality advocates on Monday. Shortly after, the Free Basics project was withdrawn from the said country.

In a statement sent via email Thursday, as reported by PC World, a spokesperson for the social media company said, “Free Basics is no longer available to people in India.”

The program of Facebook gave Internet access to mobile phone users, but was limited to Facebook, BBC, Wikipedia, local news, weather reports and a few health-related websites.

The ruling against the program came about after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India studied Facebook’s offering to the populace of the country. In the end, as the BBC reported, the governing body has decided that all websites should be equal in terms of accessibility and no one should be prioritized over another.

As the government branch puts it, “No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.”

Facebook’s free Internet access is being utilized in other countries. The social media giant was planning to tap India’s 1.3 billion people, in which only 252 million people have access to the Internet, and expand its market beyond the boundaries of the United States.

Facebook is already familiar with this kind of protest with its free Internet access offering. The said project was earlier known as internet.org, and many net neutrality advocates in other countries also failed to embrace it. Cyber activist pointed out that small players in the content playing field will not be able to participate if it will be controlled by big corporations, Reuters reported.

Prior to the reported withdrawal of Free Basics from India, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg responded to the issue through his own Facebook account, saying: “Connecting India is an important goal we won’t give up on, because more than a billion people in India don’t have access to the internet. We know that connecting them can help lift people out of poverty, create millions of jobs and spread education opportunities.”

He also added, “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. That mission continues, and so does our commitment to India.”