The news shouted :- India deals blow to Facebook in people-powered 'net neutrality' row. Indian regulator outlaws differential pricing for data packages, blocking Facebook’s Free Basics service that ‘arguably disadvantage small providers’.
For once, I had been staying away from this entire debate surrounding Net Neutrality and Free Basics. But after reading about it, I thought it was my turn to jump into the muddle. So here we go.
You are most welcome to leave behind your comments - whether you are in agreement or in disagreement.
What is Free Basics?
As Facebook puts it, Free Basics by Facebook provides free access to basic internet services to a billion people all over the world. Facebook offers any service to be apart of it.
What did Free Basics meant for India?
The scheme offered free access to a limited number of websites. The free content spanned across categories like Social Networking, Career Websites, Entertainment, Health, Information, Sports and Women Empowerment.
Some of them included Facebook, Facebook Messenger, IBN Live, AccuWeather, BBC News, Wikipedia, Bing Search, Dictionary.com among other.
What did the moral police (always active in India) do?
The moral police (privileged people have unlimited access to the internet) screamed about Net Neutrality. Some professor, living the privileged world of the United States, professed "Internet is a platform where ISPs provide no competitive advantage to specific apps/services, either through pricing or QoS #NetNeutrality"
They quoted various facts about Free Basics (read here ).
The arguments included valid ones like this one.
Facebook doesn’t pay for Free Basics, telecom operators do.
Others were extremely dumb, like the these ones.
Internet access is growing rapidly in India. We’ve added 100 million users in 2015. Almost all the connections added in India the last 1 year are NOT because of Free Basics.
Research has shown that people prefer to use the open web for a shorter duration over a limited set of sites for a longer duration.
What did the TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) do?
It passed a judgment on 8th Feb 2016.
TRAI acknowledged some “positive effects” of differential pricing. TRAI said that “differential tariffs arguably disadvantage small content providers who may not be able to participate in such schemes.
“This may thus, create entry barriers and non-level playing field for these players, stifling innovation. In addition, TSPs may start promoting their own websites/apps/services platforms by giving lower rates for accessing them.”
In short, Free Basics internet service app was blocked in India.
What's my take on it?
Well, in very simple terms, the service was offering free internet access on a limited number of websites to people.
Is that bad? Absolutely no.
The reasons are simple. Consider some examples below.
The Midday Meal Scheme is a school meal programme of the Government of India designed to improve the nutritional status of school-age children nationwide. The programme supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes in several schools across India. It serves 120 Million children across the India. The food program is free.
The Indian Institutes of Technology, the premier education institutes in India, subsidise undergraduate student fees by approximately 80%. The education is subsidised, and available to a limited few.
Why does the country run these schemes or programs or institutes? To help the nation grow. In Spite of all the progress made by India in recent past, India continues to be a poor nation.
Just today, I read - India's per capita income during 2015-16 is likely to be Rs 6,452.58 per month (Courtesy Wikipedia - Per capita income measures the average income earned per person in a given area (city, region, country, etc.) in a specified year. It is calculated by dividing the area's total income by its total population)
The World Bank recently said - A 10% increase in the use of the internet in a country can lead to a 1.9% increase in trade. This will help the economy.
This should be taken into consideration by people who are against free internet access (most of them, I am sure, earn ten times the national average).
India has an internet penetration of 33.22% (which means, only 33 out of 100 people have access to the internet). India ranks 126 in the global list of internet penetration. Internet speed in India ranks in the bottom 5.
Wouldn't free internet help people to grow? Why are we so keen to stifle the growth of our people? Why would people who have access to filling meals stop food being made available to those who are hungry?
Why, is the world, so unfair?
Reviewed by Vyankatesh
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Obstacles are frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal. – Henry Ford
Every man has his faults. It all depends on whether he has enough good qualities to counterbalance them. – Ferec Santa
Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you. – Jan Goldstein
Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them. – John Updike
Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in. – Bill Eardley
No one can really guarantee the future. The best thing we can do is calculate the risks involved, size up our chances, estimate our ability to deal with them, and then make our plans with confidence. – Henry Ford
The ability, to use the present in the anticipation of the future, will make the difference.