Facebook’s Free Basics Is Now Open For All, But Mobile Data Used Will Be Charged!
After TRAI’s strongly worded letter to Facebook condemning their shrewd and cunning campaign to garner support for Free Basics went viral, a new strategy has been adopted by them to popularize their anti-net neutrality propaganda.
First reported by Medianama, it has been revealed that Free Basics is now open for all; and the most interesting thing is that users would consume their mobile data to access Free Basics sites. Hence, it must sound totally weird as of now, but Free Basics is now available without zero rating for non-Reliance customers as well.
If you open FreeBasics.com on your Idea, Airtel, Vodafone or Tata Docomo service, then this is the message you will get:
On clicking the hyperlink: “Use Data to browse Free Basics”, a new page will be opened, wherein all the websites listed under Free Basics are available for the user.
Considering that these are not covered under Zero Rating, the user will incur mobile data charge for accessing these websites.
But, What’s the use of this?
We consulted some experts in policy making, and here is our observation:
a) Last month, TRAI had specifically asked Facebook to stop their Free Basics program in India, as consultation on this matter is still on and Indian Govt. and TRAI haven’t yet found the solution of this problem. After we protested that Free Basics is still available despite TRAI’s orders to stop it, Facebook has infact put Free Basics on hold. Mobile users who had downloaded Free Basics app are not able to access Free Basics now.
Hence, in order to get around this gag-order, Facebook has now opened ‘neutral’ access to Free Basics program, which is certainly not against law. They are not violating any net neutrality principle as all access to all the websites under Free Basics are now chargeable as per the consumption.
But, the hidden agenda here is to convert Free Basics into a ‘directory’ like service (Yahoo directory, DMOZ etc) for all users, irrespective of their telecom provider.
Maybe Facebook is still optimistic that Indian Govt. will allow their zero rating propaganda; and once that happens, they will make the access free of any mobile data usage and (as per their plans) users would be hooked on to their free services.
b) It’s a unique strategy to make Free Basics popular among users of other telecom providers. As per consumer psychology, once a user gets hooked to a paid service, then making him addicted is really easy: just offer the same service at lower cost or better, free.
Once that happens, the user won’t find any other alternative as useful as the free (or lower cost) service, and the objective of creating their monopoly would be achieved.
c) Facebook will record the data of such usage, and may launch a new campaign to target these users in order to garner more support for Free Basics. They may contact TRAI and show them the data pertaining to the ‘paid’ usage of Free Basics, and maybe convince them to allow zero rating to benefit these users.
Overall, it’s our observation that Facebook is now resorting to indirect ways to make their Free Basics plan popular among majority of mobile phone users.
Maybe we are witnessing a whole new level of propaganda for achieving a nefarious objective.
After Google pulled out from Free Basics program, opposition to such anti-net neutrality program is gaining momentum, and Facebook is forced to adapt newer strategies to make it legitimate.
But we hope that this doesn’t happen. We will keep you updated as more details come in.