Facebook has confirmed shutting down its Free Basics project in India. The decision came after The Telecom Regulatory Authority recently banned telecoms from charging different rates for internet access based on content.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the development to afaqs! stating, "Free Basics is no longer available to people in India."
Recently, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued 'Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016' which prohibits service providers to charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.
The announcement upholds net neutrality and allows users to access the internet without being charged extra depending on the content they are consuming. This proved to be a big blow to Facebook's Free Basics and Airtel Zero which have been lobbying with the telecom authority to allow differential data pricing.
Subscribing to such plans would have allowed access to a set of websites and apps for free, while for the others, there would have been a specific data plan. This would have delivered a big blow to small companies and start-ups which cannot afford to sign up for such plans.
Meanwhile, reacting to TRAI's decision, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that while they are disappointed with the decision, Facebook will continue to work towards breaking down barriers to connectivity in India.
"Connecting India is an important goal we won't give up on, because more than a billion people in India don't have access to the internet. We know that connecting them can help lift people out of poverty, create millions of jobs and spread education opportunities. We care about these people, and that's why we're so committed to connecting them," he wrote in a Facebook post.
Free Basics is a part of Facebook's Internet.org initiative which is aimed at providing internet access to all globally. It includes different initiatives such as extending networks through solar-powered planes, satellites and lasers, providing free data access through Free Basics, reducing data use through apps, and empowering local entrepreneurs through Express Wi-Fi.
Facebook claims that Internet.org has connected more than 19 million people in 38 countries.