Months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the headquarters of the social media giant in California, the latest ruling by TRAI has stalled Facebook’s India ambitions and forced it pull out its Free Basics platform in India. The move comes even after Facebook’s Founder-CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s statement to continue fighting for the platform. TRAI had ruled against differential pricing and in-turn banned the platform.
As the net neutrality activists continued their campaign to ensure that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, the latest ruling by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) against Facebook’s Free Basics is being hailed as a win. The regulatory body’s ruling is being hailed as a win for the net neutrality activists and a huge setback for Facebook.
This decision by TRAI brings to an end a series of tussles between the regulatory body, net neutrality activists and Facebook. Reliance Communications (RCom) and Facebook had decided to make it a paid platform that also primarily defeated the purpose of providing low-cost or free-of-cost connectivity to millions of people in India. The industrial powerhouse was the official partner for Facebook to deploy Free Basics in the country.
They decided to make the platform paid and had also made it available across other telecom operators without any arrangements as per the TRAI ruling. The new platform had also intended to charge consumers just for the data they had consumed. Facebook, having played a key role in India’s 2014 elections and hosting Mr Modi at its headquarters, was hoping to have the ruling in its favour. However, the regulatory body triumphed over the social media giant.
“To be fully compliant with the new regulations announced by TRAI, RCom has already begun the process of re-configuring access to FreeBasics, from the current free regime to a chargeable one, as per the existing data plans of our customers,” an unnamed spokesperson from RCom was quoted as saying. The spokesperson also pointed out that it will be billed as per a customer’s mobile internet or data plan.
The ruling is seen as a victory for the net neutrality activists who are having a larger say on the freedom of internet usage worldwide.
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