The era of the internet is paving the way to its apex and amidst this Facebook has got in FREE BASICS, citing the soaring utilities of the internet and has quoted it as a platform for the Indian developers to make their services and websites accessible for free of cost to those who cannot afford it. Chris Daniels, vice president of Internet.org said that Free Basics has been re-launched with the motivation “ to enhance accessibility in an affordable manner to the internet “ and also mentioned that it would bridge the gap between the digital divide. It surely appeals to be philanthropic but, a lot of pros and cons are camouflaged with this facility.
A detailed articulation of FREE BASICS by Facebook is expounded below –
WHAT EXACTLY IS FREE BASICS?
The social networking giant Facebook had launched Internet.org, free internet service to those who could not afford this connectivity. This initiative was later renamed as Free Basics just prior to the visit of Prime Minister Modi to the Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Free Basics is a platform that lets the software /app developers make their services available for free to those who cannot bare its charges.
BUT this free access is constrained to partner websites.
Even though it is painted with all good gestures but, like every coin has two sides, this too holds its gray shades under its wings. The nub of criticism is that it offers prejudiced access to these services i.e. the service is free for some and not all. Facebook has collaborated with some Internet Service providers to provide selective access to a set of app developers and this seems to corner net neutrality and has caused a lot of chaos.
‘NET NEUTRALITY VIOLATED ‘ WHAT IS NET NEUTRALITY?
Net neutrality can be simply framed as unbiased internet accessibility to all i.e. anyone from any corner of the world should be able to access or provide internet services without any prejudice.
IS ZERO RATING AND FREE BASICS THE SAME?
Zero –rating is a practice where ISP does not charge the customer for data on a select application. So theoretically does follow the lines of zero-rating. Earlier Airtel did launch a zero – rating service called Airtel zero which was discontinued in response to the outrage from those who wanted equal and free internet. Airtel Zero disrupts Net Neutrality by aggrandizement of certain services over others. Hence, it was called off by the company itself.
THE ‘SAVE FREE BASICS ‘ PETITION TRENDING ON THE SOCIAL MEDIA IS
Facebook in response to all the grilling received by the Free Basics launched a campaign titled ‘ send a Mail to TRAI to Save Free Basics ‘ requesting users to send in signed emails to TRAI as an act to support Free Basics and Facebook claims that the campaign received huge responses. TRAI recently revealed that the majority of responses simply said “I support free basics.”, but the fundamental question was if users favored net neutrality. So the answer has been re-questioned.
ROLE OF TRAI
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had to intervene in the matter because of the stir created by Free Basics amidst the people. Facebook had initially launched its Internet.org venture with Reliance Communications as its partner but, Rcomm was directed to retract from this venture by TRAI. Apart from this TRAI recently issued a consultation petition on the varied pricing of data, where it has enquired if telecom operators should be allowed different pricing for different websites and platforms.
ZUCKERBERG’S TAKE ON THE MIXED RESPONSE IN INDIA TO FREE BASICS
The mastermind behind Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg came out in full swing to defend the Free Basics and claimed that Free Basics is fully in coordination with the net neutrality. Back-slashing the opposition, he said the ones opposing this service are hurting the poor. He quoted that “for every ten people connected to the internet, roughly one is lifted out of poverty “. He also cleared that Free Basics is no charity, only a few basic selected sites, and facebook entitled websites to remain free. This initiative is to provide the basic internet facilities to the poorest to help them connect to benefits of the world. It is better to see free basics as an important business strategy that is beneficial to the poorest as well.