Facebook’s Free Basics Gets The Cold Shoulder In India


India has done more than just give Facebook’s free Internet service app a “dislike.”

Yesterday (Feb. 8), the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) blocked Facebook’s Free Basics, an app that delivers services from Facebook’s Internet.org, which was designed to provide Internet access to developing countries, reports The Times of India.

In an order called “Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulation,” TRAI said: “No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content,” and “No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person … that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged to the consumer on the basis of content.”

While the TRAI’s order applies to more than just Facebook’s free Internet service app, Free Basics meets the definition of those that are being blocked because, as Fast Company explains, the Internet access that it would have given users in India would have been restricted to sites of Facebook’s choosing, thus putting Free Basics — from the perspective of TRAI (and others) — in opposition to the concept of net neutrality.

Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, the BBC shares, took umbrage to that position in a blog post that read in part: “While we’re disappointed with today’s decision, I want to personally communicate that we are committed to keep working to break down barriers to connectivity in India and around the world.”

“Connecting India is an important goal we won’t give up on,” continued Zuckerberg, “because more than a billion people in India don’t have access to the Internet. We know that connecting them can help lift people out of poverty, create millions of jobs and spread education opportunities.”

The Times of India story adds that TRAI’s prohibitive order contains exemptions for emergency services and times of public emergency.