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Shedding Light in the Darkness

India Says No to Facebook Plan

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India has banned Facebook’s proposed Free Basics plan and other services that enable carriers to charge differential pricing for different kinds of data. India’s telecom regulator made the decision in support of the principle of net neutrality.

Facebook had mounted a massive advertising campaign to promote Free Basics, which was countered by a volunteer-led coalition called Save the Internet, that was supported by major Indian startups. Last month, TRAI also criticised Facebook’s lobbying campaign as a “crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll.”

As part of the campaign Facebook users were getting notifications from friends urging them to send a pre-written message to India’s telecom regulator TRAI to ‘save’ Free Basics and ‘achieve’ digital equality’ in India.

The Times of India reported on the flap caused by a derisive tweet by Facebook director Marc Andreessen: “Big shot Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, also one of Facebook’s directors, caused a rumpus on Twitter on Wednesday with his adverse comments on India’s decision to prohibit differential pricing of data services. He withdrew his remark and apologised later. He had tweeted “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for Indian people for decades. Why stop now?”

“He later issued an apology over a series of tweets praising India’s “amazing people” and the “profoundly positive effect” its “companies” have had on the “Internet and world.”

Reaction from readers on The Times of India’s web site to their nation’s decision included: “Neo-colonialists have been defeated.”

“From the word Go there was nothing free about Free Basics in India, so it was inherently doomed from the start. What Mr. Zuckerberg had failed to realise was that the problem wasn’t the availability of internet services but the real problem lay in the lack of cheap and consistent last-mile internet connectivity which every isp has failed to provide.”

“There is nothing as free in this life. There is always a hidden agenda behind everything that is apparently free.”

And maybe the most damning: “This was Facebook’s Waterloo in India. It lost respect in tech community, showed its ignorance and arrogance.”

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