The debate over net neutrality is back in the spotlight. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's ambitious project, Internet.org, now has been rechristened and re-launched as Free Basics. However, internet activists believe that Facebook's Free Basics comes with a price, which is, internet freedom.
The Facebook has gone all out in running aggressive advertising campaign on televisions, leading newspapers, billboards to gather public support for Free Basics. The initiative promises to empower millions of people by getting them online.
"Free Basics by Facebook is a first step to connecting one billion Indians to jobs, education, and opportunities online, and ultimately a better future. But Free Basics is at risk of being banned, slowing progress towards digital equality in India," claim Facebook in its advertisement around Free Basics.
Besides e-mail campaign, Facebook is also prompting its Indian users to send a message to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in support of Free Basics. Reliance Communications has partnered with the social-media giant to provide this service.
The telcom regulatory body, meanwhile, has asked RCom to keep the service in abeyance until there is a decision on its consultation process around differential pricing of data by operators is sorted out. The last date for public comments on TRAI's paper is December 30.
This campaign by the social-media giant has also got internet activists on their toes. The savetheinternet.org is also running a counter campaign asking net users to urge the regulatory body to maintain the status quo of the internet.
“Save The Internet (part 3). Tell TRAI that we need net neutrality, once again (Dec 2015). TRAI has issued another consultation paper asking once again, if we want Net Neutrality. This time, it's about differential pricing - Airtel Zero and Internet.org type services,” reads the message on its website.
Comedy collective All India Bakchod aka AIB has produced another explainer video on Free Basics to help people to make a better choice before sending a message to TRAI either ways.
It takes the viewers step by step explaining how the Free Basics campaign is being run and the risks that it poses to net neutrality in the country.
The Facebook's previous attempt, Intenret.org fell through after TRAI opposed to it.
“Collaborations between telecom operators and content providers that enable such gate-keeping role to be played by any entity should be actively discouraged”, the panel had said, according to reports.
Net neutrality implies that equal treatment be accorded to all internet traffic and no priority be given to an entity or company based on payment to content or service providers such as telecom companies, which is seen as discriminatory.
Watch the video, do some research online and make an informed choice.