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Facebook’s Free Basics plan falls foul of regulators in India

Facebook’s attempts to provide free access to some internet services in India has come a cropper.

The initiative, which is part of the firm’s wider plan, wants to give Indians access to some basic services, while they would pay for others through their carrier.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has informed Facebook’s network partner in the region, Reliance Communications, it should withdraw support.
A spokesperson for the network told the BBC: ”As directed by TRAI, the commercial launch of Free Basics has been kept in abeyance, until they consider all details and convey a specific approval.”

The issue is that the Free Basics scheme, which brings access to the likes of Facebook and Wikipedia, contravenes the principles of net neutrality.

Whereas Facebook’s initiative is geared towards lessening the prohibitive cost of internet access in the region, it does raise the spectre of carriers charging to access one website and not others.

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On his personal page, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company would continue to push for the scheme.

“If someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity,” he wrote, “it is always better to have some access than none at all.”

A Facebook spokesperson added: “We are committed to Free Basics and to working with Reliance and the
relevant authorities to help people in India get connected.”

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