After seeing so many advertisements and posts on the web on Facebook’s Free Basics initiative and the opposing views of its critics wielding the Net neutrality shield, I decided it is time I understood and took a stand. The first article I read was by Mark Zuckerberg himself, titled Free Basics protects net neutrality. It made me wonder, why would anyone oppose this program? Then I went through the articles that had an opposing view. None of them actually opposed the idea itself. They were skeptical about how by whom it was being implemented, and what would be the repercussions of such a program which then would endanger Net Neutrality.
Our politicians lack the knowledge and maturity to talk about it, and it only makes the debate worse. Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik, in a letter to the TRAI supporting Net Neutrality, said, “If you dictate what the poor should get, you take away their right to choose what they think is best for them.” Nobody is forcing anything on anyone. Free Basics allows a set of basic internet services for things like education, healthcare, jobs and communication that people can use without paying for data (which is non-existent today). The paid internet would be as it is today, as neutral as it can be with the usual occasional censorship which surprisingly nobody has problems with (Censorship is a bigger problem to Net Neutrality than anything else). So, Free Basics only offers a choice to the poor of not paying for basic internet services, and does not take away the right to choose.
Some critics question why Facebook should spearhead this program. Well, because it is their idea! I however support the demand that clear rules should be laid down as to what content get into the free pool. TRAI/Government has a big responsibility in ensuring Net Neutrality while it allows implementation of Free Basics. A flawed implementation of it may cause serious long term problems with respect to neutral internet.
I support Free Basics as as an idea because it only increases our options to choose from and does not limit us in any way. If it gets its perception right (which I think today is not very good), it could be a really big success, spurring an internet revolution of sorts. If you agree with me, you can spend a few minutes of your time expressing your support to it: https://www.facebook.com/savefreebasics
Categories: Computers, Coding and Technology