FREE BASIC COLONIZATION —-NOTHING FREE OR BASIC ABOUT FREE BASICS (FACEBOOK INITIATIVE )
As per FB’s online petition, it urges users to send a letter to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) supporting Free Basics.
What is free basics?
Free Basics is part of the Internet.org by Facebook initiative. Free Basics is a platform (app) which makes the internet accessible to more people by providing them access to a range of free basic services like news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication and local government information.
What are the benefits of free basics?
Get more people online mostly the unconnected masses. In India roughly around 30% of population have access to internet, with the free basics initiative more people can access online. More than 90% of population have access to mobile phones with majority having smart phones, through an app like free basics which is free of cost, many services like education, health care, jobs etc can be accessed by individuals easily. Improves digital literacy, which is one of the objective of DIGITAL INDIA by the present government. Directly or indirectly, free basics try to empower the citizens by improving their access to quality socio economic services. Remove inequality and promote inclusive governance (easy internet to women, lower cast, disabled, poor etc )
What is the state of free basics in India now?
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has stopped the service for now, pending its public consultation on the subject.
However, Facebook is involved in influencing campaigns like online petition, public forums etc to essentially influence the outcome of such consultation by TRAI.
Why people are against free basics?
Data as commodity:
When users go online internet data is consumed.Personal data is the currency of the Internet economy. Facebook and Google’s revenue model is based on monetizing our personal data and selling it to advertisers (like what we search more etc) à BIG DATA ANALYTICS
Free basics is not free and violates net neutrality:
Free Basics is not free, basic Internet as its name appears to imply. It has a version of Facebook and only a few other websites and services that are willing to partner Facebook’s proprietary platform. With free basics the concept of net neutrality is violated. The internet service providers (ISP’s) by tying up with FB act as gatekeepers, regulating what content to be viewed and what not.
Flaws in the model:
Facebook’s ads and advertorials talk about education, health and other services being provided by Free Basics, without telling us how we are going to access doctors and medicines or education through the Internet. It forgets that while English is spoken by only about 12 per cent of the world’s population, 53 per cent of the Internet’s content is English. If Indians need to access education or health services, they need to access it in their languages, and not in English i.e. local languages Teachers need cannot be replaced. The Internet is not a substitute for schools and colleges but only a complement, that too if material exists in the languages that the students understand.
Monopolization game of internet:
It is like today you have 5 hotels in your area and charge Rs 100 for one meal that is Rs 300 for three meals –morning, evening and dinner meals per day. Now one hotel starts giving you two meals free and charge Rs 50 for dinner .You feel happy and started having meals from that hotel only. After some days you are habitual to these offers and one day that hotel increases rate of meals to Rs 500 per meal that is Rs 1500 per day for three meals. Now you search for other hotels, but what you find is that there is no hotel left because other hotels could not survive and led to monopoly of single hotel. Now you end up in paying Rs 1500 instead of Rs 300.
Way forward: Regulate price of internet data
In spite of the increase in connectivity, we have another 600 million mobile subscribers who need to be connected to the Internet. Instead of providing Facebook and its few partner websites and calling it “basic” Internet, we need to provide full Internet at prices that people can afford. This is where the regulatory system of the country has to step in. The main barrier to Internet connectivity is the high cost of data services in the country. Till now, TRAI has not regulated data tariffs. It is time it addresses the high price of data in the country and not let such prices lead to a completely truncated Internet for the poor .If after liberalization we can have call rate of 1 paisa per sec why not for internet ?
Further we need energized efforts on National e governance plan connecting 2.5 lakh gram Panchayats Recent initiative like 4G, Project Loon need to be worked on with corporate social responsibilities.The danger of privileging a private platform such as Free Basics over a public Internet is that it introduces a new kind of digital divide among the people.A large fraction of those who will join such platforms may come to believe that Facebook is indeed the Internet, which is not.The British Empire was based on the control of the seas. Today, whoever controls the data oceans controls the global economy.
The same should not happen by promoting free basics initiative of Facebook. It is the right time to prevent internet colonization else we have to again say –SIMON GO BACK OR LAUNCH QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT.