Free Basics has once again reignited the net-neutrality debate across country, with some of the biggest names too, voicing opinion on the same. However, as the date to send opinions to TRAI on the differential pricing of data nears, Facebook’s aggressive Free Basics promotion is also growing strong and got a major impetus today by CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself.
Refusing to back down on Free Basics despite growing opposition, Zuckerberg today wrote an opinion piece titled Free Basics protects net neutrality in the Times of India, comparing Free Basics to the basic free public services like healthcare, libraries, and basic education.
He termed Free Basics as the 21st-century requirement of the basic internet services to the large majority of the offline population who deserves access to the tools and information that can help them to achieve all those other public services, and all their fundamental social and economic rights.
We know that when people have access to the internet they also get access to jobs, education, healthcare, communication. We know that for every 10 people connected to the internet, roughly one is lifted out of poverty. We know that for India to make progress, more than 1 billion people need to be connected to the internet.
Mark also mentioned the efforts so far done by Facebook with the help of mobile operators, app developers and civil society in over 30 countries to overcome internet adoption barriers of affordability and awareness. He said that half the people who use free basics switch to a data plan within 30 days and hence Free Basics was a bridge to the full internet and digital equality.
Many net neutrality activists in India have termed Free Basics as a walled garden of Internet. This uproar has largely been, because of the fact that while developers are now able to develop apps for Free Basics, they are still not guaranteed an entry on the same.
However, Zuckerberg rejected this claim and wrote that Free Basics was opening up the whole internet and it was open to partner with any telco or any developer to offer services to people for free.
He reiterated the story of Ganesh which he had shared last month while announcing Free Basics to all the Reliance subscribers in the country.
What reason is there for denying people free access to vital services for communication, education, healthcare, employment, farming and women’s rights? How does Ganesh being able to better tend his crops hurt the internet?
This isn’t the first time though, when Zuckerberg has himself come up to defend Free Basics. He did a similar stint in October earlier this year, when he defended the then called Internet.org initiative. He had argued, that it is not sustainable to offer the whole Internet for free, but is possible for internet.org (now Free Basics) platform to give basic services without any cost.
He concluded that there was no valid basis for denying people the choice to use Free Basics, and urged people to choose facts over false claims.