Facebook Shuts Down “Free Basics” Programme In India


Net neutrality is a hot topic these days. Adding fuel to the proverbial fire, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has barred telecommunication service providers from charging a varying rate for data services.


As per the TRAI, the regulations are as follows:

  • No service provider can offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.
  • No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged by the service provider for the purpose of evading the prohibition in this regulation.
  • Reduced tariff for accessing or providing emergency services, or at times of public emergency has been permitted.
  • Financial disincentives for contravention of the regulation have also been specified
  • TRAI may review these regulations after a period of two years.

This basically means that the tariff for data services could not vary depending on the type of content being accessed. So a consumer could not be charged a different rate for browsing a social media site or whether he/she was streaming a video.

In addition, the TRAI also stated that a fine of INR 50,000 would be imposed per day, and a maximum of INR 5 Million will be charged for any violation of these regulations by the service providers.

In conjunction with this move, Facebook has decided to shut down its ‘Free Basics’ programme in India. The social media giant had faced severe criticism for the programme, which was aimed at providing basic Internet access to people in partnership with telecom operators.

However, the move was seen by critics as an attempt to violate the regulations of net neutrality which state that the Internet and the sum of all its parts should be made available to all equal terms whereas the Free Basics programme allowed access to selected websites.

When asked about their views on the matter, a Facebook spokesperson said that while they are indeed disappointed with the outcome, they would continue efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the Internet and the opportunities it brings.

What are your comments on India’s decision to bar telecom providers from charging a varying rate for data service?

Do you think shutting down the Free Basics programme was a good idea? Let us know in the comments below.


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