The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has told Reliance Communications to temporarily stop Facebook’s Free Basics service. According to reports, RComm has sent a compliance report to the regulator, confirming that the service has been stopped. Reliance was Facebook’s sole partner for the Free Basics project, which means that until further notice, the Free Basics programme will be pretty much dead, unless of course, Facebook can develop other partnerships to keep the service going. TRAI, though, is yet to decide whether Free Basics conforms to net neutrality norms or not. It is important to note that Reliance Communications hasn’t removed the Free Basics platform from its services, and this is only a temporary closure.
Facebook’s Free Basics platform aims to bring Internet services to people who don’t have proper connectivity and access. In doing so, though, the platform has been called up for breaking net neutrality policies. This is because Free Basics offers access to select websites for free, while consumers will still be charged for other services. The Free Basics platform, along with Airtel Zero, were the first to spark the net neutrality debate in India, prompting the government to take a closer look at these services.
For the uninitiated, the Net Neutrality principle indicates that Internet service providers should be allowing access to all content on the Internet, without favouring any particular website over the other. You can learn more about net neutrality here.
Coming back to Facebook’s Free Basics platform, the social networking giant has been pushing the platform in various countries for a while now. The platform was originally known as Internet.org, but was renamed to Free Basics in September this year, signifying that the Internet is a basic resource that everyone should have.