Facebook has withdrawn its Free Basics service from India, after the country’s telecom regulator (TRAI) banned discriminatory pricing for different data services on Feb 8.
The decision has been a huge setback for the company, which had been promoting Free Basics as a “free” platform to connect Indians to the Internet, through an extensive campaign.
“Free Basics is no longer available to people in India,” a Facebook spokesperson said. This decision comes after an announcement by its telecom partner Reliance Communications, that Free Basics would be a paid platform.
“To be fully compliant with the new regulations announced by TRAI, RCom has already begun the process of re-configuring access to FreeBasics, from the current free regime to a chargeable one, as per the existing data plans of our customers,” a Reliance spokesperson had said.
On Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said that while he was “disappointed” by the decision, the company’s “mission” continues.
In a Facebook post, he wrote that it was “committed to keep working to break down barriers to connectivity in India and around the world.” He further added that “connecting India is an important goal we won’t give up on, because more than a billion people in India don’t have access to the Internet.”
Silicon Valley venture capitalist and Facebook board member Marc Andreessen jumped into the discussion with tweets comparing Free Basics to colonialism and suggesting that Indians were heading for economic disaster by banning it.
Denying world’s poorest free partial Internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong.
— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) February 10, 2016
The tweet was soon deleted by Andreessen, but was widely shared on Twitter and sparked off online protests. Several Twitter users questioned Andreessen’s ill-informed perspective and said it explained why Facebook’s Free Basics strategy of offering limited Internet access went wrong in India.
Hey @pmarca: Your $45mn Free Basics campaign didn’t work…so how about spending another $45mn actually giving free internet to India’s poor?
— Prasanto K Roy (@prasanto) February 10, 2016
Since deleting his tweet, Andreessen has posted an apology for any offence caused by the original statement.
After the gross statements by Marc Andreessen against the decision from TRAI, the heat on social media generated and turned to a disappointment for billion Indians for having such opinion for their country. However, he has apologized for the same, but accepting the fact, Zuckerberg posted on the Facebook having a disagreement with what Marc opinionated.
It’s surely a win for the nation with the Net Neutrality campaign that was driven against the Free Basics service having a tag of Internet.org.
Facebook’s Free Basics service is no longer available to people in India, however, it will continue to operate in around 30 countries across the world.
Information Source: Mashable.