You must have seen Facebook notifications telling you about your friends who have sent an email to TRAI in favour of Free Basics scheme — which according to Facebook — is to support Digital Equality in India. Well, thats not what its meant to do, and Microsoft India’s Chairman has come out to let you know just that.
Bhaskar Pramanik recently voiced his opinion on Free basics, calling it unjustified and not in compliance with net-neutrality.
In an interview to ET, Pramanik said,
I don’t think what Facebook is doing is about net neutrality; it is about helping first-time users get on the Internet and they should call it that. But to muddy it and say that it is also net neutral doesn’t make sense.
He further added that Facebook’s intentions with Free Basics may be “noble” but describing it as compliant with net neutrality is not justified,
Free Basics is the new project by Facebook under its internet.org project which had received a lot of criticism in India due to net-neutrality concerns. It has been promoting Free Basics as a way to bring the essential internet services to the underprivileged and does not see it against Net neutrality.
Recently, TRAI put a hold on the agreement between Reliance and Facebook to offer Free Basics service until it makes sure that it does not oppose net neutrality.
TRAI has also asked for opinions from people on a consultation paper on differential pricing for data services which has again sparked off a debate on net neutrality. The deadline for submitting the comments is December 31st after which it will make a decision on Free Basics.
And recently, Facebook has started a campaign on its social network urging people to send a mail to TRAI to support Free Basics as it is “a first step to connecting 1 billion Indians to the opportunities online – and achieving digital equality in India.”
However, strong voices have started to rise against this campaign calling it misleading as it essentially does not support net neutrality.
And this is what Bhaskar Pramanik clearly mentions in his arguments as well — what Facebook is doing and what net neutrality is — are two separate issues.
I think we need to be very clear that net neutrality means that everybody has the same advantages or disadvantages. If they (users) are going to be charged more for a certain set of applications of their choice and directed only to the certain set because the operator says I will give you those for free, then where is there net neutrality?
Facebook, however, from the beginning has been defending its stand on its internet.org and now Free Basics project and does not see it against net neutrality. Mark Zuckerberg however, has continued to defend the initiative on numerous occasions, saying that Free basics neither harms the users nor the operators and only aims to give basic services without any cost.