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Rahul Thadani
TRAI Hands Out Landmark Blow to Facebook Free Basics
February 9, 2016

Free-Basics-Facebook

In a landmark ruling, TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has come out in favor of net neutrality and upheld the integrity of a free Internet for one and all in the Indian telecom industry. TRAI has now banned broadband providers and mobile carriers from offering differential pricing to customers based on what content and data plans they offer to them. This in turn has dealt a huge blow to Facebook and their ‘Free Basics’ plan which was met with a lot of suspicion and scrutiny due to its padlocked nature.

The full version of the transcript by TRAI can be read here.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality is the universal concept that all sites and services on the Internet should be free to access for one and all. This is especially true in a democracy such as ours. The benefits of this freedom are easy to understand – everyone in the country can get free access to all websites on the Internet. This allows people to access information as and when they please, and it also enables them to use these services for trade, business and for developing their own technologies. Clearly, this is the basis for any economy to succeed. This is also the basis on which the biggest technological companies today such as Facebook, Google and others have flourished over the years.

But the issue gets cloudy when people start saying that only a small percentage of people actually have access to the Internet. They say that the reasons for this are that these people are below the poverty line and cannot afford data plans or smartphones. So what do the proponents of this theory do? They decide to offer a select few services to these people for free. But by doing so, the integrity of the free Internet is severely threatened.

How zero-rated Internet services upset Net Neutrality

The simple explanation here is that when some sites and services are offered for free, the users are ultimately discouraged from using similar services (which may actually be better) that cost a bit more. For instance, if as part of the Free Basics plan a user gets free access to Bing, why would he pay money to access Google? The underlying concept of the Internet is that the user is free to choose any site he wants, and this concept is put under threat by zero-rated services.

Moreover, the reasons why a particular service would be available on a zero-rated service over and above its competitor are not known to users. It could be because the service has paid money and is underwriting the cost, it could be because the runner of the service wants to gain some political advantage, and it could just be that the service runner wants to get in the good books of the service provider. So where does this leave the common user? He is at the mercy of constantly changing, ambiguous and money making corporations who are simply using the idea of charity as a means to enhance their market reach and profitability.

However, TRAI has now seen the light after a lot of media backlash by Internet bodies who have strongly voiced their opinions on this matter. They have clearly stated – “No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.” This is a prominent victory for the supporters of a free Internet, and surely this signals the end of Facebook’s much publicized (and aggressively advertised) Free Basics plan.

So what do you think of this ruling by TRAI? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Rahul Thadani
About Rahul Thadani
Rahul is a web enthusiast and blogger, and has been writing about the computer security industry for the last three years. Following the latest technology trends,...
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16 Comments

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  1. Ramu MadarapuFebruary 13, 2016 at 8:11 AM

    I also support Trai’s decision not to encourage for free basics internet and don’t encourage anyone,please support to trai’s decision.

    Reply
  2. Just a Beginning of New revolution…

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  3. VINOD NIRGULKARFebruary 13, 2016 at 9:53 AM

    acha hai….

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  4. i really appreciate the steps taken by the TRAI. And i always supported not to be with free basic.company will be controlling your internet plans. I always needed a freedom in my internet access. so thanks to TRAI FOR taking such a decision.

    Reply
  5. Shekhar DeshpandeFebruary 13, 2016 at 12:42 PM

    TRAI’s ruling is correct. Its extremely heartening to know that TRAI is fair and use its regulatory powers appropriately. I just hope, this continues and is not a temporary thing.

    Reply
  6. TRAI has done well in maintaining net neutrality and imposing heavy penalty for those not complying with the regulations.Indians like any thing free and Free Basics must have attracted many of us. This is evident in the messages that have been floated in support of Free Basics. The very fact that Free Basics spent millions of Rs in advertisement in last 2-3 months, this makes it clear that there was hidden agenda and it was not meant to be for the good of poor Indians but for cash rich Free Basics.
    Well done TRAI!

    Reply
  7. S P ChaudhariFebruary 13, 2016 at 1:47 PM

    I am with net neutrality and TRAI.We Indians are are budding nation.We have principle of equality in our constitution and we follow it.MNC have to work in India as per law of land.We are a sovereign nation.Better Americans understand it.If we would have been under colonial control,same works good for Americans too.Britain certainly wouldn’t have imposed such draconianand arbitrary hypothesis.

    Reply
  8. A huge game changer and informed decision made by TRAI. This will open avenues for new services and start-ups. To The big e-commerce and social websiteswho can afford to provide free basics-“In Your Face”. Thumbs-Up to Net-Neutrality.
    #PAISEKITAAKATSEWISHWASUTHGAYA

    Reply
  9. for the supporters of a free Internet

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  10. Nice

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  11. Gurmukh SinghFebruary 15, 2016 at 5:44 AM

    TRAI has done good. thought after this is to control the internet as they controlled the Indian media.It should never happen. Today’s ruling peoples’s thinking is very dirty. They don’t want the people get the true news.

    Reply
  12. i want to free facebook

    Reply
  13. Prakash PatilFebruary 15, 2016 at 10:47 AM

    Free Basics was Facebook’s smart move to capture the untapped Indian internet market, but TRAI and regulatory bodies in many other countries have outsmarted Facebook, forcing it to beat a hasty retreat. But, be warned, Facebook may have other tricks up its sleeve. After all, the Indian market is too huge and the temptation to carve out a big chunk of the market is too much to resist for Facebook and its ilk…

    Reply
  14. Shekhar ShewaleFebruary 16, 2016 at 1:00 AM

    Very good decision by TRAI, appreciate it! Facebook has spent billions of dollars on Free Basic campaign. At that time I started feeling that there is something fishy. TRAI has taken correct decision.

    Reply
  15. WELL DONE TRAI?????//

    BUT ITS NOW TRAI OR GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBILITY TO GIVE FREEDOM TO INTERNET TO ALL CITIZEN OF INDIA .

    CHECK THE RATE OF DATA PACKS 1GB-RS250 ,ITS FAIR OR NOT

    SO I WASNT FAVOUR OF FACEBOOK BUT I LIKE AIRCEL NETWORK PROVIDER AS HE ONLY GIVES SAME DATA PACKS IN LOW RATE AND HE WAS ALSO FAVOUR OF FREE BASICS THATSWHY FREE BASICS IS USEFUL FROM MY POINT OF VIEW

    Reply
  16. I want to do Facebook free basic with TRAI

    Reply