The ongoing debate around net neutrality and Free Basics has intensified ahead of TRAI s December 30 deadline to submit comments on its consultation paper. A Mark Zuckerberg op-ed on ToI vehemently defends Free Basics, while Nikhil Pahwa counters saying how it is against the very principles of net neutrality. Also Read - Facebook smartwatch to feature cameras alongside fitness functions: Yes, detachable cameras!Also Read - What happens to your Facebook account after you die?
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Zuckerberg starts off by comparing Free Basics to libraries, hospitals and schools that are important in our society despite offering basic services. And in the 21st century, everyone also deserves access to the tools and information that can help them to achieve all those other public services, and all their fundamental social and economic rights. That s why everyone also deserves access to free basic Internet services, he wrote.
To this, Pahwa asks why Facebook has chosen the current model for Free Basics . This model, he says, gives users a predetermined selection, instead of giving the poor free access to the open, plural and diverse web . Pahwa cites examples of Aircel, Gigato, and Mozilla Foundation among others that offer free access to the entire Internet.
To back his claims Zuckerberg states certain facts including how those using Free Basics quickly overcome the digital divide . More than 15 million in over 30 countries are using Free Basics, and Zuckerberg says how half the people who use Free Basics to go online for the first time pay to access the full Internet within 30 days .
He is also quite critical about the ongoing debate of net neutrality in India, and especially towards those who are campaigning against Free Basics. He says they are false claims Instead of recognizing the fact that Free Basics is opening up the whole internet, they continue to claim falsely that this will make the internet more like a walled garden. Zuckerberg cites Ganesh, a farmer in Maharashtra, as an example of someone who has benefited from Free Basics
Pahwa however reiterates that the Free Basics model is against net neutrality since Facebook and RCom reserve the right to reject applications from websites and apps for Free Basics, and forces them to conform to its technical guidelines . So in essence if there is a service that competes with a similar service from the telecom operator, it won t be allowed on Free Basics.
Zuckerberg concludes by asking people to Choose facts over false claims. Everyone deserves access to the Internet. Free basic Internet services can help achieve this. Free Basics should stay to help achieve digital equality for India.
Pahwa counters saying, FreeBasics and its peer telecom operator models are not open, plural or diverse, and can be harmful for India s democracy. It gives Reliance Communication and Facebook the power to pick winners and losers online. Since access to Internet services is restricted, it takes away our right to choose and is hence against the very fabric of net neutrality.
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