Facebook India is pulling the plug on the Free Basics project in the country in light of the verdict by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which bans differential price point for platforms that are zero rated.

The decision from Facebook comes as a surprise even as the debate over the issue wage on with people being divided. It was speculated that TRAI's decision may be challenged by telecom service providers in court. However, Facebook's announcement has laid to rest such estimations.

On Thursday, a Facebook spokesperson announced that Free Basics - which operates in 38 countries around the world, and connects over 19 million people - will not be available to Indians anymore.

Paradoxically, the decision to withdraw the initiative comes a year after the Free Basics project in India was started as "internet.org" by Facebook and RCom tandem. Then, Facebook began an aggressive campaign supporting Free Basics, albeit unsuccessfully.

Accusations that Facebook was anti-net neutrality were hurled at the social media company by activists throughout the world. TRAI also felt that the different tariffs were prejudiced and earlier this week issued a Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations 2016, which debars service providers from charging users based on the content they access.

The final straw you ask?

"The final straw was the stand taken by RCom to make the service pay. There was no other option left, especially as the company had to follow the law of the land," a source told Times of India.

Facebook's decision to withdraw Free Basics from India comes a day after the company's board member Marc Andreessen made a controversial comment on Twitter. He tweeted that India would fare better economically if it discarded ideas such as net neutrality, which were anti-colonialist. The tweet caused public outrage leading its deletion.

Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg stepped in to do some damage control, noting that he too found Andreessen's remarks "deeply upsetting" and they were not representative of Facebook or his ideologies.

I want to respond to Marc Andreessen's comments about India yesterday. I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, 10 February 2016

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