In what came as a major blow to Facebook; the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) prohibited discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content. In other words, it prohibited Facebook’s highly controversial ‘Free Basics’ platform.
In an order, ‘Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulation’, Trai said, “no service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.”
The regulator further said that “no service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person… that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged to the consumer on the basis of content.”
In a response to this, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, said, “Today India’s telecom regulator decided to restrict programmes that provide free access to data. This restricts one of Internet.org’s initiatives, Free Basics, as well as programmes by other organisations that provide free access to data.”
“While we’re disappointed with today’s decision, I want to personally communicate that we are committed to keep working to break down barriers to connectivity in India and around the world. Internet.org has many initiatives, and we will keep working until everyone has access to the internet,” he added and claimed that Facebook’s work with Internet.org around the world has already improved many people’s lives.
“Connecting India is an important goal we won’t give up on, because more than a billion people in India don’t have access to the internet,” Mr Zuckerberg said.
“Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. That mission continues, and so does our commitment to India,” he said, adding that everyone in the world should have access to the internet.
“That’s why we launched Internet.org with so many different initiatives – including extending networks through solar-powered planes, satellites and lasers, providing free data access through Free Basics, reducing data use through apps, and empowering local entrepreneurs through Express Wi-Fi,” Mr Zuckerberg said.
Meanwhile in a statement, Facebook said it would continue with its efforts in India.