Facebook Free Basics:
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has passed a new law that prevents telecom services from charging different tariffs based on content, a move that will have significant repercussions for big tech companies — including Facebook.
The TRAI, has passed law so called the Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, which states in part: “No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.”
Indeed, Facebook itself features prominently in the Free Basics app, meaning locals can access Facebook without incurring data charges. By handpicking which Internet services are included and which aren’t, it’s argued that Facebook is serving as the gatekeeper for so-called zero-rating services. Though this legislation will apply to all companies, it’s clear that Facebook’s recent initiatives in the country have played a major part in bringing the new law to pass. Facebook’s free Internet program, Free Basics, has been widely criticized for violating the principles of net neutrality.
“Our goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, non-exclusive and free platform,” it said in a statement Monday. “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.”
Since launch, Free Basics has been controversial. Though it offers critical resources to people who might not otherwise be able to afford internet access, the program also offers a huge competitive advantage to the sites and services it includes.
For instance, if Facebook Messenger is free to use, any other messaging app is going to be a hard sell. It’s a clear net neutrality issue, although Facebook has argued to the contrary. Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Free Basics was “not in conflict” with net neutrality because it doesn’t block or throttle other websites. Nonetheless, net neutrality advocates would argue that by providing some sites for free, people are significantly discouraged from visiting anywhere else.