India vs Facebook faceoff: Trai bans Free Basics
Much to the relief of net neutrality supporters, the Indian telecom regulator has banned Facebook’s Free Basics once and for all.
In December last year, there was a furore in India about Facebook's Free Basics program over net neutrality. Free Basics is part of FB’s internet.org’s initiative to bring impoverished people of developing countries online, providing certain free web-based services to mobile subscribers. The net neutrality lobby was fighting tooth and nail to foil the Facebook attempt of robbing internet freedom.They were of the opinion that data providers should not favour some online services over others.
The Trai had asked Reliance Communications with which the social network site had a tie-up with, to stop providing the program to its customers as formal launch cannot commence till the regulator completes its consulatation with the stakeholders. Trai had asked Indian public to share their feedback by January 7. The body had been investigating whether any online content should be prioritised over others, or offered for free while others were not.
In the ruling, the Authority not just bans Facebook’s offerings but it also imposes ban on zero-rated internet services – meaning services which allow users access to some apps and websites without using any of the mobile data allowance are also no longer applicable. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) released the Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, saying: "These Regulations intend to make data tariffs for access to the internet to be content agnostic. The Authority has largely been guided by the principles of Net Neutrality seeking to ensure that consumers get unhindered and non-discriminatory access to the internet."
The regulations state that internet service providers cannot charge "discriminatory tariffs" based on content, and Trai warned that companies breaking this rule will face "financial disincentives".
Facebook has not yet commented on the development, but surely Mark Zuckerberg-led company will be majorly disappointed on this development as it has already spent on resources to tie up with Reliance Communications to offer this Free Basics.