Facebook’s Free Basics app is a nice idea. It is an app that seeks to give free internet access to certain websites for those in areas where internet connection isn’t readily available. The service has been widely criticized as terrible for net neutrality, as it only gives users access to certain select websites, and notably lacking are any of Facebook’s competitors. The Free Basics site says that the reason for these restrictions is that the sites have to be simple enough to work over low bandwidth networks, and use data efficiently.
However, those in India are not happy with the lack of net neutrality in this situation, and thus have banned the Free Basics app. The Indian portion of this program has always been outspoken, at least since an Indian journalist said that it is “just a Facebook proxy targeting India’s poor” in April of 2015. That same month several Free Basics team members in India quit over the same issues. It was then that the Free Basics team changed its model and opened up the service for websites to apply to become part of the service, instead of just having Facebook be the one who could pick and choose the sites that would be available.
That was not enough for those in India, who have just banned the app over these net neutrality issues. Mark Zuckerberg has a big dream – to connect the entire world – but he’s going to have to do it in a way that doesn’t seem built to just get him more users for Facebook. Free Basics is still going to be available in other emerging markets such as Zambia, Pakistan and Iraq. However, the Indian market is huge and without its support, it’s hard to imagine such a product becoming as successful as it could be.
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