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Facebook's Free Basics Internet Service Blocked In India Over Net Neutrality Concerns

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India's telecoms regulator has blocked Facebook's Free Basics over concerns that the Internet service violates net neutrality.

The Internet company teamed up with local carriers to be able bring Internet access to developing parts of the world through its Internet.org group. The initiative would bring free access of people in these areas, but to only specific sites like Facebook itself.

Free Basics service has been under fire for some time now because some argue that data providers should not favor some online sites or services over others, and charge other prices to access other content.

The free content available included local news and weather, the BBC, Wikipedia and health websites.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) previously put a temporary ban on the free Web service back in December. And now it has ruled that Free Basics is banned in its current form. However, the report did not single out Facebook, and instead is a more general ban on these types of services.

"TRAI has today issued the 'Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016' that disallow service providers to offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content being accessed by a consumer," the regulator said in a statement.

According to TRAI, no service provider will be able to charge "discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content." The policy may be reviewed every two years, which means Facebook (which has invested millions in the service) will be able to make changes to Free Basics in order to get its program back online in India.

Those who violate the ruling will be fined 50,000 rupees per day, about $735 USD, with a maximum of 5 million rupees, about $73,554 USD.

"Our goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, nonexclusive and free platform," a Facebook spokeswoman told BBC. "While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the Internet and the opportunities it brings."

Blocking the Free Basics program is a blow to Facebook since India would be an important market for Facebook to increase its user base with its population of 1.2 billion people.

Source: The BBC

Photo: vgrigas | Flickr

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