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What Facebook is trying to do now is gather support for its NN-violating Free Basics scheme in India by possibly misleading millions of its users.

Is Facebook asking you to Save Free Basics in India Here is what it means
Flix Net Neutrality Friday, December 18, 2015 - 13:02

For the past couple of days, Facebook users across India have received a notification informing them that either one or many of their friends have allowed Facebook to send a message to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India asking them to support “Free Basics in India”. This is has come following TRAI’s second round of consultation on certain questions around Net Neutrality in India.

Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites.

This is a smart move by Facebook, given that during the previous consultation process by TRAI on pretty much the same questions, more than a million people in India wrote to TRAI opposing Net-Neutrality-violating corporate schemes like Free Basics and Airtel Zero.

What Facebook is trying to do now is gather support for its NN-violating Free Basics scheme in India by possibly misleading millions of its users.

The petition’s header says that “Free Basics is a first step to connecting 1 billion Indians to the opportunities online – and achieving digital equality in India.”

Here is the full text of the letter which will be sent by Facebook to TRAI on your behalf if you sign the petition.

To the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India,  I support digital equality for India.   Free Basics provides free access to essential internet services like communication, education, healthcare, employment, farming and more. It helps those who can't afford to pay for data, or who need a little help getting started online. And it’s open to all people, developers and mobile operators.  With 1 billion Indian people not yet connected, shutting down Free Basics would hurt our country's most vulnerable people.   I support Free Basics – and digital equality for India.  Thank you.

Those statements are not necessarily correct, and there are other ways to achieve digital equality and provide opportunities to Indians.

The problem with Free Basics is that it is based on the concept of "Zero Rating", where some services can be given free and others will be charged for. For example, if you want are using Free Basics, Facebook will be free, but Twitter or WhatsApp might not be. Thus, Zero Rating violates Net Neutrality.

That might be ok in this specific case - but if we allow this to become a standard practice in the industry, then large network providers will be in a position to pick and choose the services given to their consumers. A big telecom company might charge more from a smaller start-up to be on par with a competitor. Tim Berners-Lee, one of the founding fathers of the Internet who strives for expanding its use by the entire web recently called Zero Rating “Economic Discrimination”, saying that “Economic discrimination is just as harmful as technical discrimination, so ISPs will still be able to pick winners and losers online.”

Read here further what exactly is wrong with Internet.org/Free Basics.

But if Free Basics are bad, then how do we bring about digital equality you ask? Read this by BJD MP Jay Panda on the other ways to go about it.

So if you see anyone signing the petition or sharing it – ask them, ‘are you in support of violating net neutrality’, because by signing the petition, that is what they would be doing.

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