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Don’t halt programmes that help connect people: Facebook


New Delhi : Defending its ‘Free Basics’ initiative, Facebook today said programmes that help people connect should not be halted or limited.

The reaction of Facebook comes against the backdrop of sectoral regulator Trai coming out with a consultation paper on differential pricing for data services, through which telecom operators offer free or discounted tariffs to access certain websites.

Earlier called ‘Internet.Org’, Facebook had launched the ‘Free Basics’ initiative in India with RCom to offer free access to certain applications and websites.

“We hope those involved in this discussion consider the broader consequences of halting or limiting programmes that help people connect and improve their lives,” Facebook Vice President (Mobile and Global Access Policy) Kevin Martin said in a statement.

The social networking giant said it is committed to working with Trai to uphold the principles of affordable and innovative internet access for India in a fair and consistent manner.

“Free Basics works and is bringing more people online by serving as a bridge to the full, paid internet. Second, we listened to the initial concerns and changed Free Basics so the programme is non-discriminatory, non-exclusive and open to all developers. Finally, there is no doubt that Free Basics is already helping people,” the company said.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has asked stakeholders as to what steps should be taken to ensure that principles of non-discrimination, transparency, affordable Internet access, competition, market entry and innovation are adhered to, in case differential pricing is allowed.

Trai said some plans introduced in the recent past amount to differential pricing that offer zero or discounted tariffs to certain content of select websites or applications or platforms.

The principle of Net neutrality is against any priority being accorded to an entity in Internet traffic flow on account of payments to service providers like telecom companies.

In the past too, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has defended the programme, stating that Free Basics and Facebook are 100 per cent supportive of net neutrality.

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