Indian Telecom Regulatory Authority has asked Reliance Communications, Facebook’s Indian telecom partner, to suspend the controversial “Free Basics” mobile Internet program, which was renamed from Internet.org for the same reasons, pending decision on whether or not it violets net neutrality.
“The question has arisen whether a telecom operator should be allowed to have differential pricing for different kinds of content. Unless that question is answered, it will not be appropriate for us to continue to make that happen,” an unnamed government official told the Times of India.
The Free Basics platform is a portal where one can access basic services like Wikipedia.org, health and educational content for free through Facebook. This has enabled access to the internet for more than a billion people, and is still to reach other parts of the world. The service had recently been opened up to all developers provided they meet a certain criteria, a clause that attracted further criticism.
India is one of the larger markets, and failure of the service there is a significant blow.