As Facebook continues its campaign to defend Free Basics platform in India, comedy group AIB has put out a new video defining the problems with this zero-rating app. AIB first made a video explaining Net Neutrality in April when the issue had gained interest on social media in light of Airtel’s zero-rating platform.
The latest AIB video called “Saving the Internet 3”, goes into detail on how Free Basics violates Net Neutrality. The group starts by saying that Free Basics is still Internet.org, which has been renamed by Facebook and that changing the name doesn’t change the nature of the service.
AIB also points in its video out that Facebook won’t allow any services that interfere with Teleco services on Free Basics, thus leaving out services like video, VOIP, etc for the poor who might find these more useful than text-based services.
The group also mocks Facebook’s social media campaign, where it has been pushing out notifications about a user’s friends who might have signed up to support Free Basics.
For now, Facebook’s Free Basics service has been stopped in India after a TRAI order to Reliance Communications. Reliance is the official partner for the platform. However that has not deterred the social media giant from launching a full-scale campaign to generate support for its zero-rating app.
Facebook has put out full-page in newspapers, billboards across metros along with its social media campaign where it has been prompting users to support Free Basics. Facebook has also been accused of asking American users to support Free Basics, though the company claimed that this was due to an error.
The problem with Free Basics, according to Net Neutrality activists, is that it goes against the principle of a free, unfettered Internet and lets the company act as a gatekeeper, deciding which websites can become a part of the service.
Facebook for its part has maintained that Free Basics is a crucial step to achieve digital equality in India. The platform has run into trouble after TRAI issued a paper titled, “Consultation Paper on Differential Pricing for Data Services,” raises concerns over zero-rating platforms being offering by TSPs in particular.
The paper asks for comments on whether such differential pricing should be allowed. Stakeholders are expected to post their comments for the paper by December 30 and counter-comments are to be submitted by January 7.
The paper says that while zero-rating might help accelerate the rate of Internet access in the country, they also put small content providers at a disadvantage. TRAI’s paper says that zero-rating apps “create entry barriers” and a “non-level playing field for these players” which stifles innovation. These are arguments that Net Neutrality activists have also put against zero-rating platforms.
Facebook’s Kevin Martin, Vice President, Mobile and Global Access Policy, had said in an statement, regarding TRAI’s latest paper, “We are committed to working with TRAI to uphold the principles of affordable and innovative internet access for India in a fair and consistent manner. During the consultation process, we hope the focus is on the issues that matter most.”
His statement defended Free Basics and says that the data shows that the app is helping more people come online “by serving as a bridge to the full, paid internet.”