If you want free internet for the poor in India, you should support Facebook’s Save Free Basics campaign. As long as you’re all right with the fact that only those who have a Reliance connection can benefit from the platform right now. Also, merely sites and services approved by Facebook and internet service providers delivering access to them are intended to be part of the initiative.
Just to jog your memory, remember Internet.org which had multitudes of Indian citizens and activists protesting against its anti-net neutrality nature? If you help Facebook to ‘save’ Free Basics, their efforts (and probably yours, if you petitioned against it too) will have been in vain. The tech giant is presently running a campaign claiming that the venture is a step closer to achieving digital equality.
You know what Sir Tim Berners-Lee, one of the founders of the internet, would call it? Economic discrimination. Facebook doesn’t explain why the underprivileged should settle for the walled garden that is Free Basics instead of the full power of the internet. Something is not always better than nothing.
Facebook’s new campaign encourages users to shoot an auto-generated email to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) pledging support for Free Basics. Those who choose not to click ‘send’ are not fighting against their poorer countrymen’s right to web access at no cost. They want the whole of the internet for their brethren instead. They are challenging Facebook to come up with a less self-serving way to bring connectivity to all.
Facebook’s approach to providing web access to everyone is far different from that of Google’s. The latter is attempting to beam down internet to the masses via its Project Loon hot air balloons. The company is the top search giant and earns a huge amount of revenue from its advertising platform. So more people online is better for business in general. But its plan at least opens up the whole of the worldwide web to the folks depending on it.
— Monica Jasuja (@jasuja) December 17, 2015
Facebook’s Free Basics app keeps users within its boundaries. The argument in its favor is, it’s like an advertisement and the majority of those who access it start paying for data packs after realizing the potential of the web. Why not give them a teaser of what the whole of the internet looks like then? India is not obliged to run with the first plan for ‘digital equality’ that a corporate offers it, when there could be a better one.