Facebook’s Free Basics scheme is not allowed in India

The citizens’ right of accessing the Internet is “non-negotiable” and the government will not allow any company to restrict people’s entry to the worldwide web, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said today.

Our government will not allow the Facebook’s offered internet plan named Free Basics in India.

“When I was handling communications department…my friend Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook CEO) met me a number of times with the idea of Free Basics,” he said.

Facebook had introduced its Free Basics programme in India in 2015 to offer free basic Internet access to people in partnership with telecom operators.

Prasad said the idea behind Free Basics was that everything will be free, namely eduction, health, entertainment and others, if one enters the Net through one gate (Facebook’s).

But our country is a Democracy and we don’t believe in one gates. We want multiple gates to use the free Internet, he said.

In February 2016, Facebook shut down the controversial programme after telecom regulator barred operators from charging different rates for Internet access based on the content.

US regulator Federal Communications Commission has said recently that it plans to roll back the “Net neutrality” rules adopted in 2015.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is slated to announce its recommendations on the issue soon and the consultation process is still on.

Prasad also highlighted that India will uphold privacy but asserted that privacy “cannot prohibit innovation”.

“Privacy cannot be shield of the corrupt, terrorist and the extremists… There is a need for striking a balance in data availability, data utility, data innovation, data anonymity and data privacy,” he added.

Prasad said India has been advocating multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance to ensure that governments and other stakeholders become “active participants” in the Internet, which is one of the greatest innovations.

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