Facebook Retreats From ‘Free Basics’ Controversy In India

By Staff Writer

Feb 14, 2016 01:10 AM EST

A Facebook spokesperson has confirmed through an email statement on Thursday that 'Free Basics' is no longer available in India. The social site has been compelled to shut the app following an embargo from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

Facebook has teamed up with India's Reliance Communications Ltd. during last year to offer subscribers certain services through universal connectivity. Soon after, it has started to encounter serious opposition from the startup founders accusing for violating net neutrality.

In December, TRAI has instructed Reliance India to refrain from providing access to Free Basics. The instruction has remained valid till investigating legal basis of the service, according to a report published in International Business Times.

TRAI has ordered on Monday that differential pricing for accessing content on the internet or violating net neutrality has been referred as illegal by TRAI on Monday. Probable violators have been cautioned with realization of penalty for IRs. 5000,000, reports HindustanTimes.

From now on, no service provider will be allowed to charge differential pricing on basis of application, platforms, websites, or source. No ISP will be able to enter any arrangements based on discriminatory pricing, reports Gadgets 360⁰ quoting Ram Sewak Sharma, TRAI Chairman while announcing the order through a press conference.

More than a billion people in India don't have access to the Internet. However, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg vows not to give up since he considers connecting India as important goal. Despite closure in India, Free Basic project continues to operate in around 30 countries around the globe.

Facebook has officially decided to abandon the service centering negative reaction over a tweet by Facebook board member Mark Andreessen. The tweet, humiliating the anti colonialism sentiment of the Indian people has elicited a swift reaction and been removed later on. However, Zuckerberg has termed the tweet as deeply unsettling.

Following the TRAI order and Andreessen centric tweet row, Facebook has retreated from the stage. But Facebook is believed to reappear aided by the best lawyers to fight the case on its behalf.

The net neutrality advocates consider Free Basics as bad product with bad communication. They have urged the common people to remain vigilant fearing old wine may be reserved in new bottle with new brand.

Net neutrality advocates have been protesting against Facebook's efforts to establish monopoly regime through Free Basics. The move has witnessed a victory on Monday since TRAI announced net neutrality violation as illegal. The regulator has also warned of imposing monetary penalty against the violators.

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