In what net neutrality advocates are calling a major win, India's telecom regulator has banned Free Basics.
"Given that a majority of the population are yet to be connected to the Internet, allowing service providers to define the nature of access would be the equivalent of letting TSPs (telecom service providers) shape the users' Internet experience," said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in its ruling on Monday. "While formulating the regulations, the authority has largely been guided by the principles of net neutrality seeking to ensure that customers get unhindered and non-discriminatory access to the Internet," the TRAI explained, noting that "no service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content." Under these new regulations, violators would face a fine of Rs 50,000, or $735, per day. Net neutrality activists, journalists, politicians, CEOs, and many more praised the TRAI's order.
"Our goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, non-exclusive and free platform. While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the Internet and the opportunities it brings," said a Facebook spokesperson in a statement on the matter. Last year, Facebook's Free Basics was temporarily blocked in India, to which CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, "There's no valid basis for denying people the choice to use Free Basics. Everyone deserves access to the internet. Free basic internet services can help achieve this." While the TRAI agrees with the latter part of Zuckerberg's statement, the regulator disagrees with Facebook's approach.
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