Facebook’s Internet.org is now offering its Free Basics app across India via Reliance Communications’ (RCom) mobile network.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, announced on the social networking site that “everyone in India can access free internet services for health, education, jobs and communication through Internet.org’s Free Basics app.”
RCom launched Internet.org across 6 Indian states back in February, and the service is now expanding nationwide. Facebook has claimed that Free Basics, which provides free access to specific Internet content, has “brought more than 15 million people online”. The service is used by over 1 billion people in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
However, the service has come under fire in India along with Bharti Airtel’s Airtel Zero, with claims that the programmes violate net neutrality principles. Major companies have chosen to distance themselves based on public opinion, with online retailer Flipkart pulling out of Airtel Zero after protests from net neutrality campaigners.
Facebook has been among the voices defending the so-called ‘zero-rating’ plans, claiming that the apps and content that users can access without incurring data charges are provided in an impartial way.While Indian telecom officials have previously stated that both Airtel and Facebook’s services conflict with the principles of net neutrality, Zuckerberg has rejected these assertions and pledged to make Free Basics more transparent and accessible for developers and partners.