NEW DELHI – Reliance Communications Ltd, which is an Indian company based on Navi Mumbai, that offers internet access and provides CDMA and GSM mobile services, has been told by authorities from the country to suspend the provision of the Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) service that offers free access to Internet.
The communications company allied with Facebook that has over 1.55 billion monthly active users from which 124 million are in India, the second-biggest market of the social network in the world. Both companies agreed to provide a service called Free Basics, which seeks to engage people who have no access to the Internet in a free-limited-access experience.
On Wednesday Reliance Communications announced the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) requested them to delay the commercial launch of the service until they determined if it was legal and they received specific approval from the regulator, declared the agency.
It seems Reliance Communications has not shut down the service yet, even when the regulators requested it. The Times Of India reported the Free Basics platform can still be accessed by users who are subscribed to the telecom company.
Facebook has been working alongside mobile operators from 17 countries to give people access to relevant basic internet services without data charges, wrote the company in its newsroom. The service is offered through internet.org and is now available to more than a billion people.
There is some discussion wheter Internet.org is a threat the to internet’s neutrality or not. A source from the regulatory institution told to the Times of India the question proposed whether a telecom operator should be allowed to have differential pricing for different kinds of content or not. Unless that question was answered it would not be appropriate for them to continue to make that happen, wrote the journal.
“In the past month people using Internet.org accessed health services more than a million times, which speaks to the ultimate goal of Internet.org — helping to make an impact in people’s lives. We look forward to working in partnership with more mobile operators and developers to bring internet access and relevant basic internet services to the unconnected” wrote Facebook in a press release in July.
India has one of the most important economies of the world and tech companies such as Google, Apple, Nokia and Facebook has been trying to enter the Indian market with affordable products and services. Vijay Shankar, who is Facebook’s head of products, said to Press Trust of India that 59 million users in India are accessing Facebook and 53 million of them do it from mobile phones.
In the country that has a population of 1.252 billion inhabitants, over 80% of users are on 2G network that has an average download speed of 0.3 Mbit per second, which is extremely slow when comparing it to 4G networks that are used in developed countries, that reach a speed of 100 Mbit per second.
Facebook said in an email statement it was working with Indian regulators and remained committed to offering access to Free Basics in India, the service that permits citizens from the country to access Wikipedia and Dictionary.com for free.
On December 23 a notification saying “I support Free Basics in India” appeared on the feeds of users from the U.S., it showed an automatic message that aimed to find support from American users to the Facebook’s initiative described to promote digital equality. Later, the company said the notification was rolled out because a mistake of them and it wouldn’t be shown to users outside India.
According to Facebook, Internet.org is making an impact on people’s lives by providing free health, education, and economic information, they wrote in a press release. The company stressed people in South Africa have been searching for information to launch and run businesses, and 3.4 million of parents have searched for health information related to pregnancy and parenting, with the service.
SaveTheInternet, a campaign that aims to have a world with net neutrality, remarked that users are the ones than end up paying for Internet.org.
“Facebook doesn’t pay for Free Basics, telecom operators do. Where do they make money from? From users who pay. By encouraging people to choose Free Basics, Facebook reduces the propensity to bring down data costs for paid Internet access,” the organization said.
Source: The Times of India