Google has withdrawn itself from the Free Basics platform in Zambia. While a specific strategy has not been declared by Google, it may be majorly owing to the negative stance that Free Basics has found itself in, amidst the Net Neutrality debates. In an interaction with the Times of India, Google has stated that it was never a partner in Free Basics, and was only a member during its trial period in Zambia. Google has also clarified that it had not partnered with Free Basics elsewhere.
Free Basics by Facebook has recently come under massive criticism and negative feedback in India, with Net Neutrality activists blaming Facebook for promoting Free Basics as a preferential platform for services on the Internet and effectively holding the power to curate and control Internet access that one can do via Free Basics. While Free Basics is marketing itself as an essential Internet provider for rural areas where data access is limited, supporters of Net Neutrality and protesters of differential service pricing have stated that Free Basics is attempting to throttle the openness of the Internet, in pretence of providing very basic internet access to a certain section of the nation.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) held an open house discussion yesterday, where it heard telecom operators, union bodies, Facebook, startups and others on opinions of Free Basics. It will keep processing feedback till January 25, after which it will pass a judgement on whether differential pricing of services will aid the Indian internet consumers, and also take a call on Free Basics and its future in India.