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Facebook halts Free Basics programme in India

In a boost to net neutrality, Facebook has decided to shut down its controversial ‘Free Basics’ programme in India, following telecom regulator Trai’s move to bar operators from charging different rates for Internet access based on content.

Facebook halts-AV

Facebook had met with severe criticism for its programme, which aimed at providing basic Internet access to people in partnership with telecom operators.

Critics saw this as violation of the principle of net neutrality that states that entire Internet should be available to everyone on equal terms as Free Basics allowed access to selected websites.

“Free Basics is no longer available to people in India,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed response.

The service was available in India with Reliance Communications. In December, RCom put the service on hold following a Telecom Regulator Authority of India’s directive to that effect.

Ruling in favour of net neutrality, Trai has barred all telecom operators from offering discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content, implying that operators will have to charge the same price for data used, irrespective of website or app accessed by the consumer.

This puts an end to Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel’s zero rating plans in India.

Yesterday, Facebook board member Marc Andreessen had set off another controversy by terming Trai’s decision as an ‘anti-colonialist’ idea and said the country would have been better off if it had remained under British rule.

Facebook founder and head Mark Zuckerberg distanced himself from the comments saying the remarks were “deeply upsetting” and did not represent the company’s thinking.

“India has been personally important to me and Facebook. Early on in my thinking about our mission, I traveled to India and was inspired by the humanity, spirit and values of the people,” he wrote in a post on the social networking site.

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