Facebook’s Free Basics Is Now Available Across India On RCom’s Network


Free Basics Facebook Airtel-001

Internet.org, renamed to Free Basics by Facebook, has now spread their tentacles across India. Initially launched in 6 states: Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa; Free Basics is now available pan-India, wherever Reliance Communications has network coverage.

Announcing this on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said, “As of today, everyone in India nationwide can access free internet services for health, education, jobs and communication through Internet.org’s Free Basics app on the Reliance network.”

Last week, we had reported that Facebook has tied up with Airtel to expand Free Basics across 17 African countries.

As of April, 2015, Reliance Communication had approximately 10 crore customers. Even if we assume that 10% of them will start using the discriminatory and partial Internet access by Free Basic, it will convert to 1 crore new users for Facebook (and other 38 odd sites which are part of this conspiracy).

Not a bad job, considering how valuable new subscribers and users are for Facebook in order to pump up their advertisement based business.

Facebook’s Attempt To Forge Emotional Connect Goes Horribly Wrong

During the announcement of this news, Mark Zuckerberg shares an example of Ganesh Nimbalkar, a poor farmer in Maharashtra who has magically ‘doubled his crop yield, eradicated insect infestations and even invested in new crops and livestock’ using Free Basics; despite the fact that his small 5-acre farm was hit by draught.

As per the Facebook post, Ganesh used ‘AccuWeather’ to ‘work better through the monsoon season’ (remember, there is a draught!) and ‘Reuters Market Light’ to ‘understand commodity prices and get a better deal for his crops’ (again, remember there is a draught, and no crops!)

This alleged attempt to create an emotional chord using the plight of poor farmers is cringe-worthy to say the least. The way Facebook is attempting to monetize draught and farming is shameful, and the attempt goes horribly wrong.

This claim attempts to showcase as if Free Basics is the only solution for farmers who are hit by draught, and to make them ‘intelligent’ enough to get the best prices.

Yes, Internet is useful, but propagating its usage via such gimmicks won’t cut to the chase.

Aircel’s Free Basic Internet Still Scores Over Facebook’s Free Basics

Even if we take the example of Ganesh, Aircel’s Free Basics Internet (FBI) scores better than Free Basics by Facebook. Providing limited speed, FBI offers unrestricted, impartial and non-discriminatory access to Internet for all customers, without any rules or regulations.

In case Ganesh had used FBI, instead of Free Basics, he could also have read blogs by Maharashtrian bloggers on agriculture, he could have used search engines to find water harvesting methods, he could have opted to go for other crops using educational videos on Ted and Youtube, all without compromising on the free nature of web.

Last month’s Townhall meeting with Mark Zuckerberg failed to provide any justification for such discriminatory and restricted web access propagated by Free Basic, and questions about net neutrality still lingers on.

At a time when leading telecom companies like Vodafone, Telenor and others have slammed Internet.org project; when India’s biggest ecommerce portal Flipkart has ditched its usage; when TRAI has vehemently opposed Free Basics and supported Net Neutrality; its high time that Facebook realizes it’s mistake, and take down the project in order to save the integrity and freedom of the Internet.

As we had shared earlier, we cannot allow Mark Zuckerberg to control Internet.

If you are a Reliance customer, will you use Free Basics by Facebook? Do share your opinion by commenting here.

  1. Santokh Singh Saggu says

    The faces of young people which are shown on freebasics ad of RCOM belong to which poor village ?

  2. DigitalGalaxy says

    Great article! Facebook needs to offer real free Internet if it wants to meet its moral obligation to connect the developing world! Go AirCel!

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