Renowned investor and technologist, Marc Andreessen has drawn ire for his tweets against India s telecom regulator ruling that banned zero rating initiatives such as Facebook s Free Basics. While he was amused why the country blocked free partial Internet to poor, Andreessen went on to invoke colonialism, stating India s anti-colonialism stance has been counterproductive. Andreessen is a director on Facebook’s board. Also Read - Facebook smartwatch to feature cameras alongside fitness functions: Yes, detachable cameras!Also Read - What happens to your Facebook account after you die?
Denying world’s poorest free partial Internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong, he said in a tweet that was followed by major criticism from Twitteratti mostly supporting net neutrality and TRAI s verdict. Also Read - WhatsApp Multi-device support confirmed, public beta rollout begins in two months: Mark Zuckerberg
Responding to a tweet from Benedict Evans, an analyst working at Andreessen Horowitz, Andreessen said, Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?
After fierce backlash from others, Andreessen deleted the tweet, and also turned down allegations that he indirectly supported colonialism. A screenshot of the conversation was soon after posted on Reddit. One of the Reddit users also revealed Andreessen resorted to blocking a few critics on Twitter following his pro-Free Basics tweets.
Andreessen later said he will not be speaking about India and its economy. Evans, on the other hand, took a dig at the TRAI decision, and India’s poor growth rate before the liberalization. He even pointed out ‘The Hindu Rate of Growth‘, to prove his point. The term is derogatory in nature and refers to the low annual growth rate post India’s independence leading up to liberalization in 1991.
Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) February 10, 2016
I hereby withdraw from all future discussions of Indian economics or politics. Carry on… Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) February 10, 2016
Reddit India (@redditindia) February 10, 2016
Nikhil Pahwa (@nixxin) February 10, 2016
While Facebook, including its founder Mark Zuckerberg, has already expressed disappointment over the TRAI ruling on differential data pricing, it s perhaps for the first time someone on Facebook s board has openly criticized the verdict. Andreessen s comments also suggests Facebook and others in Silicon Valley still consider India as a third world country and that they are doing a charity by providing such free programs.
In fact, India has one of the largest mobile Internet users base. According to an estimate, mobile Internet users in India is estimated to reach 371 million by June 2016. India also happens to be among the top users base for Facebook, with over 130 million monthly active users. Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which just hit 1 billion global users, also has over 100 million monthly active users.
Most of the companies in the West have been trying to tap the Indian market, and its booming mobile users base. Free Basics was considered as Facebook s attempt to make more revenues and penetrate deeper into the diverse Indian market.
Just in case you haven t been following the entire drama, here s a brief recap: India s telecom regulatory recently ruled that no service provider can provide or charge charge discriminatory tariffs for data on the basis of content. The regulator will levy a penalty of Rs 50,000 a day capped at Rs 50 lakhs for violating the rule. The ruling is believed to be an end for Facebook s ambitious Free Basics program in India.
Earlier, Facebook and Internet activists had found themselves at loggerheads over the issue of zero rating. While Facebook said it aims to provide connectivity to users in India, activists have accused Facebook of having a hidden agenda and also breaching the concept of net neutrality.