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How Zuckerberg’s Free Basics lost to net neutrality in India

net_neutrality

net_neutrality

 

How Zuckerberg’s Free Basics lost to net neutrality in India

Why Should there no Free Basics on the Internet ?
Why has facebook chosen the current model for free basics, which gives users a selection of around a hundred sites (including a personal blog and a real estate company homepage), while rejecting the option of giving the poor free access to the open, plural and diverse web?
Research done by Amba Kak at the Oxford Internet Institute has found that less experienced, low income groups prefer access to an open and unrestricted internet, and while “some access is better than none” ,the trade-off they are willing to make is how much they use the internet, not necessarily how much of the internet they get to use. That is, they would rather be given the choice of deciding what they want to access, with millions of websites and apps to choose from, for say three days, over being given unlimited access to a limited selection.
All access is priority.
Why hasn’t Facebook chosen the options that do not violate net neutrality? For example, in India, Aircel has begun providing full internet access for free at 64 Kbps download speed for the first three months. Schemes such as Gigato offer data for free for surfing some sites. The Mozilla foundation runs two programmes for free and neutral internet access. In Bangladesh, Grameenphone users get free data in exchange for watching  an advertisement. In Africa, Orange users get 500 MB of free access on buying $37 handset.
Perhaps the answer behind why Zuckerberg is ignoring these options lies in how Professor Vishal Misra of Columbia University, one of the foremost researchers on net neutrality, defines it: net neutrality is about the ISPs (and telecom operators) not giving a competitive advantage to any particular website or application. Today Facebook, in partnership with Reliance Communications, reserves the right to reject applications from websites and apps for Free Basics, and forces them to conform to its technical guidelines. Services which compete with telecom operator services will not be allowed on Free Basics. It would need Facebook’s permission (and hence, time), for a citizen powered crisisresponse effort such as Chennairains. Org to be made available to those on Free Basics, and the flexibility and freedom with which such an effort can evolve would be restricted or limited by Facebook’s guidelines. Facebook is being disingenuous-as disingenuous as the company’s promotional programmes for Free Basics to its Indian users-when it says that Free Basics is in conformity with net neutrality.
While Facebook argues for net neutrality laws in the US, and supports permission-less innovation in that country, in India, it wants a permission-based internet through its partnership for free Basics. The perpetuation of free basics would justify similar models such as Airtel Zero. With Idea Cellular and Vodafone also supporting Airtel in its lobbying, we would end up with each telecom operator carving out its own private bubble from the internet. Different people in India would get access to different information and knowledge, depending on the deals that their telecom operator strikes with online service providers.
Free Basics and its peer telecom operator models are not open, plural or diverse, and can be harmful for India’s democracy. It is a form of vertical integration that is anti-competitive and is inimical for India’s fledgling startup ecosystem. It gives Reliance Communication and Facebook the power to pick winners and losers online.  With telecom operators making money from websites and apps instead of from consumers, their focus will shift to meeting the needs of their business clients, over the needs of consumers. The incentive to invest in better, faster and cheaper access to the entire internet will be replaced with one of providing better, faster and cheaper access to its websites and apps. Telecom operators would have a perverse financial incentive to get users to consume more of their partner services over the less Iucrative open web: it could mean more expensive access to the open web, or poorer quality of service.
Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, in a letter to the Trai supporting net neutrality, said that “if you dictate what the poor should get, you take away their right to choose what they think is best for them”. If free Basics and its peer programmes are allowed to continue, it would leave us all with poorer access to the internet, and take away our right to choose. Tim Berners-Lee, one of the founding fathers of the internet and the creator of the world wide web, said that “giving people data connectivity to part of the network deliberately” is a step backwards. It is said to see Facebook spend millions of dollars lobbying for a stand which is against the innovation of the open web, after benefiting from its openness. India is expected to have 500 million internet users by the end of 2017, and what kind of an internet they get access to is important for our country. This is why the battle for net neutrality, with the last and current Trai consultations included is the battle for our internet freedom.

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Er. Hartaj
Er. HartaJ is one of the main Instructors and a part of the team At NCA. He himself has cleared the SSB process thrice, but as per his grandfather's Late Lt. Col H.S.Dhaliwal Wish he is continuing teaching and making officers. Been associated with New Careers Academy for the last 8 years, he also has been succefull in making Second and Third Generation Of officers. Once Taught by his Grandfather and Father Capt. Dhaliwal. He is know all across with students for the way he teaches and he is more of a role model for them .
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