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Why is Mark Zuckerberg angry at critics in India on Free basics Internet program?

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The objection raised by Indians to the Free Basics program of Facebook are reasonable! But from an another angle about a billion people in India are not connected to the Internet..We have to start some where..If we allow Facebook's initiative at least the Internet can be accessed free of cost & we can start initially with the limited 100 sites where data is free & then move to full internet...Why cry fowl even before the match has started?

Why is Mark Zuckerberg angry at critics in India?

Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

  • 29 December 2015

Mark Zuckerberg is feeling the force of critics who believe his effort to provide Indians with free access to a limited number of internet services hurts India's democracy and violates net neutrality.
In an unusually pugnacious appeal in the mass-circulation Times of India, the Facebook founder forcefully defended introducing his Free Basics service, "a set of basic internet services for education, healthcare, jobs and communication that people can use without paying for data".
Facebook, Mr Zuckerberg says, has already launched the service in partnership with more than 35 mobile operators in more than 30 countries.
He says more than 15 million people have already come online because of the service. "The data is clear," he says. "Free Basics is a bridge to the full internet and digital equality."
So - in a tone which many say mocks critics - Mr Zuckerberg asks: "Who could possibly be against this?
"Surprisingly, over the last year there's been a big debate about this in India."
Stiff opposition

After all, with more than 130 million users, India is Facebook's second biggest market in the world.
Mr Zuckerberg has been bear-hugged by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in California, and has visited India twice. He insists India will be crucial to getting "the next billion online".
Many believe Mr Zuckerberg possibly expected a cakewalk with Free Basics, and is now irate at being stonewalled by critics who are not convinced about his motives.
Earlier this month, India's telecom regulator directed a mobile operator that partnered with Facebook to put the Free Basics offer on hold following stiff opposition by the critics, who believe that it runs contrary to the principles of net neutrality and that data providers should not favour some online services over others by offering cheaper or faster access.
Last April, hundreds of thousands of Indians sent emails to the regulator and set up websites demanding a free and fair internet.
All this is not helping Mr Zuckerberg. So Facebook has launched a lavish campaign to canvass support for Free Basics, putting out expensive full-page double-spread adverts in leading Indian newspapers and putting up billboards in cities.
And on Monday, he lashed out against his critics here for continuing to "spread false claims - even if that means leaving behind a billion people".
"Instead of recognising the fact that Free Basics is opening up the whole internet, they continue to claim - falsely - that this will make the internet more like a walled garden," he wrote.
"Instead of welcoming Free Basics as an open platform that will partner with any telco, and allows any developer to offer services to people for free, they claim - falsely - that this will give people less choice."Instead of recognising that Free Basics fully respects net neutrality, they claim - falsely - the exact opposite."
But prominent tech activists are not convinced.
Nikhil Pahwa, a volunteer with savetheinternet.in, says the Facebook boss has not answered a critical question.
"Why has Facebook chosen the current model for Free Basics, which gives users a selection of around 100 sites (including a personal blog and a real estate company homepage), while rejecting the option of giving the poor free access to the open, plural and diverse web?," he wrote in a stinging riposte to Mr Zuckerberg's personal appeal.
'Open access'

Mr Pahwa, a fierce defender of net neutrality, says research has shown that "less experienced, low-income groups prefer access to an open and unrestricted internet".
They should rather be given the choice, he writes, of "deciding what they want to access, with millions of websites and apps to choose from, for say, three days, over being given unlimited access to a limited selection".
Mr Zuckerberg possibly answers this question partially in his appeal.
He says "certain basic services" are important for people's well-being in all societies, so we have collections of free books in libraries, free basic healthcare - and not every treatment - which saves lives, and free basic education. Ditto with free basic internet services, he argues.
But this is only a part of the story, say critics.
Image copyright AFP Image caption More than 90% of India's internet users are mobile Image copyright AFP Image caption There have been protests in support of net neutrality in India Mr Pahwa says Facebook and the Indian mobile partner Reliance Communications "reserve the right to reject applications from websites and apps for Free Basics, and forces them to conform to its technical guidelines".
"Services which compete with telecom operator services will not be allowed on Free Basics. It would need Facebook's permission (and hence, time) for a citizen-powered crisis-response effort such as Chennairains.org to be made available to those on Free Basics, and the flexibility and freedom with which such an effort can evolve would be restricted or limited by Facebook's guidelines."

More than half of India's 320 million internet users - 94% of whom are mobile - use Facebook and the instant messaging app WhatsApp, both owned by Mr Zuckerberg, every day, a study has shown.
The country is expected to have 500 million internet users by the end of 2017.
Technology analysts like Prasanto K Roy say it is all right for Mr Zuckerberg to look at India as a "great business opportunity" and pick up his next billion Facebook users.
"But he is being disingenuous with his Free Basics campaign. He is pushing what is essentially a corporate strategy, which is nothing wrong, and equating it with free basic education and healthcare," he says.
"Facebook is spending millions of dollars in the media to drum up support for Free Basics in India. What about using this money to subsidise internet access for the poor? Why is it dressing up what is essentially a corporate strategy as an altruistic mission?"

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Free basics is a great programme visualised by facebook. But it is all about how it will be twisted and dented to suit some pockets. Our telcos never had impartial business ethics, transparent model or social obligation. However, i think very soon some other technology would arrive and the mobile would be a thing of the past, leaving behind only the eiffel towers standing tall as witness to erstwhile telecom revolution.
Atlast the Free basics, with strident opposition by votaries of free internet without any restriction, has been shelved by TRAI..Hope we get our act fast and ensure net connectivity to every nook and corner!

India, Egypt say no thanks to free Internet from Facebook
By Annie Gowen January 28

Boys in Chandauli, India, use laptops at a Community Information Resource Center, which in addition to books provides free Internet access to the rural community. (Enrico Fabian/For The Washington Post)

ALWAR, India — Connecting people to the Internet is not easy in this impoverished farming district of wheat and millet fields, where working camels can be glimpsed along roads that curve through the low-slung Aravalli Hills.
So when Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg helicoptered in about a year ago to visit a small computer lab and tout Internet for all, Osama Manzar, director of India’s Digital Empowerment Foundation, was thrilled.
But when Manzar tried Facebook’s limited free Internet service, he was bitterly disappointed. The app, called Free Basics, is a pared-down version of Facebook with other services such as weather reports and job listings.
“I feel betrayed — not only betrayed but upset and angry,” Manzar said. “He said we’re going to solve the problem with access and bandwidth. But Facebook is not the Internet.”
Zuckerberg launched his sweeping Internet.org initiative in 2013 as a way to provide 4 billion people in the developing world with Web access, which he says he sees as a basic human right.
But the initiative has hit a major snag in India, where in recent months Free Basics has been embroiled in controversy — with critics saying that the app, which provides limited access to the Web, does a disservice to the poor and violates the principles of “net neutrality,” which holds that equal access to the Internet should be unfettered to all.
Activist groups such as Save the Internet, professors from leading universities and tech titans such as Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of Infosys, have spoken out against it. Another well-known Indian entrepreneur dubbed it “poor Internet for poor people.”
The debate escalated in recent weeks after India’s telecommunications regulator suspended Free Basics as it weighs whether such plans are fair, with new rules expected by the end of the month.
A week later, Free Basics was banned in Egypt with little explanation, prompting concern that the backlash could spread to other markets. More recently, Google pulled out of the app in Zambia after a trial period. An estimated 15 million people are using Free Basics in 37 countries, including 1 million in India.

“It’s a very important test case for what will be India’s network neutrality regime,” said Sunil Abraham of the Center for Internet and Society in Bangalore.

India’s debate could affect the way other countries address the question of whether it is fair for Internet service providers to price websites differently. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s rules on net neutrality went into effect only in June.
Officials at Facebook launched an advertising blitz to counteract the negative publicity. “Who could possibly be against this?” Zuckerberg wondered in a Times of India editorial on Dec. 28.
“I think we’ve been a bit surprised by the strong reaction,” said Chris Daniels, Facebook’s vice president for Internet.org. “Fundamentally, the reason for the surprise is that the program is doing good. It’s bringing people online who are moving onto the broader Internet.”

India, a country of 1.2 billion, has the second-highest number of Internet users in the world, but an estimated 80 percent of the population does not have Internet access.
India’s tech-savvy prime minister, Narendra Modi, is trying to combat this with an ambitious “Digital India” plan to link 250,000 village centers with fiber-optic cable and extend mobile coverage. He has turned to the Indian tech community as well as Silicon Valley for help, securing an agreement with Google to provide free WiFi in railway stations.
India has 130 million Facebook users, second only to the United States, and is a key market as the social-media giant looks to expand beyond the developed world, where its growth has slowed.
“If Facebook manages to get another half a billion users in India, that’s a valuable set of eyeballs to sell to a political party or corporation,” Abraham said.Center in Chandauli, India. (Enrico Fabian/For The Washington Post)

Facebook has long said that its program is about altruism, not eyeballs. But it does reap new customers. Those who buy a SIM card from Facebook’s local mobile partner, Reliance Communications, are then prompted to pay for additional data. About 40 percent who sign up for Free Basics buy a data plan to move to the wider Web after 30 days, Daniels said.
The service is still running despite the India suspension. A Reliance spokesman said it is in “testing mode” and is not being promoted.
“The thing people forget about Free Basics is that it’s intended to be a temporary transition for people to give them a taste of the Internet and sign up. It’s a marketing program for the carrier in some sense,” said David Kirkpatrick, author of “The Facebook Effect.” But he added: “The idea that it’s some kind of alternative Internet that’s a discriminatory gesture to the poor is the prevailing view among the Indian intelligentsia. It’s fundamentally misunderstood.”
Facebook has pledged to open up to new scrutiny the selection process for companies with new applications, Daniels said. That is a response to concerns by many in India’s tech community that Facebook’s process put India’s fledgling start-ups at a disadvantage.
The project’s proponents say that India’s needs are so great it cannot afford to suspend one program that could help.
Mahesh Uppal, a telecommunications consultant, notes that more than 10 percent of the country does not have mobile phone coverage and that India’s progress in extending fiber-optic cable to village centers is proceeding at a glacial pace. Modi had set a goal of linking all 250,000 by 2016, but only 27,000 have cable so far and it is ready for use in only 3,200, according to a government report.
In comparison, some 80 percent of China’s villages are linked by broadband.

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