What is Free Basics by Facebook?
The Free Basics platform is a rehash of Facebook’s previous initiative internet.org proposed last year. Facebook has tied up with Reliance, the sixth-largest mobile service provider in the country, to offer Free Basics as a platform to avail data services for free. However, the data services are limited to few websites only and in order to access other sites, the user will be charged. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has temporarily suspended the services, pending its public consultation on the subject.
In order for companies to partner with Facebook for Free Basics, it has a set of three conditions as of May 2015:
- “Services should encourage the exploration of the broader internet wherever possible.”
- This is fairly vague, but it looks to imply that locking users inside your app isn’t ok.
- “Websites that require high-bandwidth will not be included. Services should not use VoIP, video, file transfer, high resolution photos, or high volume of photos.”
- Facebook points out that operators are giving up resources for the project for free, so this is a limit to prevent them totally being taken to the cleaners. This means no Google, no Youtube, no Skype, no Whatsapp, no Twitter, no Naukri, etc.
What it means to us
If Free Basics is implemented, the internet will be restricted to a few limited websites that partner with Facebook. It might make sense for some who consume data on the internet that is limited to a few sites for all their internet needs. For example, one might spend all his time on the internet browsing sites like facebook for social networking, Wikipedia for information, ESPN cricinfo for live cricket updates, ibnlive for news etc.
However, there are people who would need more sites than these for various purposes like looking up information related to multiple categories. For a start up, they need access to 100’s of websites before they get operational. A person might want to learn a technical course by comparing the quality of material available on multiple websites. A person might want to check out the latest fashion from multiple websites for the lowest price and make that purchase.
So if free basics is in place, the internet will become a small bubble and a user needs to go to the websites available in this bubble only. But if a user needs to access the websites outside of this bubble to learn and grow, the user will be charged every time any such attempt is made.
We urge you to think what would be the best way forward for our society on the whole and our future generations. An internet limited to a few specific websites with the hope of more important websites being added with time? Or a free internet where anybody can access any website for free which is important for our country dreaming of a Digital India and initiatives like Make in India.
Let’s make sure we take all the information required to understand this initiative’s impact on us and our future generations. Let’s be proactive about such important things and move ahead with the right guidance to take an informed decision. Let’s get started.
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