As India fights for net-neutrality, it has become a battleground over the right to unrestricted Internet access with local tech start-ups joining the front line against Facebook Inc founder Mark Zuckerberg and his plan to roll out free Internet to the country’s masses.
The programme, launched in around three dozen developing countries, offers pared-down web services on mobile phones, along with access to Facebook’s own social network and messaging services, without charge.
India has ordered Facebook’s Free Basics plan to be put on hold while the government decides what to do.
According to the critics, the programme launched 10 months ago in India in collaboration with Reliance Communications violates principles of net neutrality, the concept that all websites on the internet are treated equally.
Mishi Choudhary, a New York-based lawyer who works on technology and Internet advocacy issues, told Reuters that India is a test case for a company like Facebook and what happens here would affect the roll out of the service in other smaller countries where there is not much awareness at present.
Also at stake is Facebook’s ambition to expand in its largest market outside the United States. Only 252 million of India’s 1.3 billion people have Internet access, making it a growth market for firms including Google and Facebook.