TRAI shuts down Free basics in india. Good or bad?

This week The regulator in India stopped Facebook from rolling out Its free basics program that gave Indians free access to a select number of websites and dirt cheap data bundles to access the rest of the internet. A user on free basics could therefore access the internet more cheaply than a user not using free basics.

Many NGO-types and activists were against free basics from the onset with claims that it gave the users a biased view of what the internet was and this concept went against net neutrality tenets. This is despite it offering cheaper data bundles in addition to free access to select websites.

My question is would you be for or against free basics if it was rolled out on a large scale in Kenya?

Someone mentioned a very interesting thing. We are busy giving opinions from our vantage point of being able to access internet. Who is talking for those who did not have internet access before Free basics, those who know internet to be Facebook and WhatsApp?

Yes Net Neutrality is a valid argument, but how involving is it to the underserved?

True Martin, I am glad to also note that the ICT CS Mucheru has said Kenya wont go the India way as per this link here. I share the same sentiments with you and him:

So in your opinion the merits of Free basics outweighs all the disadvantages.

I think you’re missing quite a few fundamental angles. While I’m not Kenyan (I’m Nigerian), I’m convinced the next battlefield is indeed Africa (so affects us all). To be clear, are you saying you support Free basics?

I don’t exactly support Free basics, especially as a media player who’s properties won’t qualify to be among the privileged sites that make the cut. What I do have though, is an open mind. Thinking that there still needs work to bring these people online. Projects like what Google had sometime back (Getting Kenyan Businesses Online) in these regions served to make things better. You know, at the end of the day, we cannot sell advertising to businesses who still don’t know the power of being online.

The approach for GKBO was quite good, classifieds like OLX even better because they show small businesses that they can sell, also show consumers that they can buy online. When we bring utility online, everything else falls in place. So yes, I support such projects, the approach may be wrong in filtering who can and who can’t.

We’re both in agreement that connecting more people to the web is a great idea.

But like most things, the devil lies in the details. And was very flawed. Criticism and stringent feedback made it better and it morphed into Free Basics. That’s why it’s so important for us to collectively raise awareness (just as the Indians have done), so the most egregious of conditions will be removed.

Now just to be clear, programs like GKBO are exactly why so many people are furious with Facebook. This is an extreme example of a company and founder who made his fortune on the open internet, now deciding that the world is better closed! From Carnegie to Bill Gates etc, the rich use their resources and considerable wealth to make life better for the many. Not to further their company with a Trojan horse type of gift to the rest of the world.

And we need to banish this idea that because we stand to gain or lose, we shouldn’t hold Facebook to do the right thing. In India, some of the most stringent voices where actually from founders whose companies where included in the Free Basics. They raised why does Facebook’s conditions get to ‘decide that my company is the best’.

Finally, it’s also worth looking taking a critical look at some of the numbers Facebook is sure to be peddling as impact of Free Basics.