Free Basics

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Internet.org is a partnership between social networking services company Facebook and six companies (Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm) that plans to bring affordable access to selected Internet services to less developed countries by increasing efficiency, and facilitating the development of new business models around the provision of Internet access.[1][2] The app delivering these services was renamed Free Basics in September 2015.[3] As of November 2016 40 million people are using internet.org.[4]

It has been criticized for violating net neutrality, and by handpicking internet services that are included, for discriminating against companies not in the list, including Facebook's rivals.[5][6] In February 2016, regulators banned the Free Basics service in India based on "Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations".[7] The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) accused Facebook of failing to pass on the four questions in the regulator's consultation paper and also blocking access to TRAI's designated email for feedback on Free Basics.[8][9] On February 11, 2016 Facebook withdrew the Free Basics platform from India.[10]

History[edit]

Mobile with Free Basics zero rating plan showing Spanish Wikipedia main page in Mexico

Internet.org was launched on August 20, 2013.[2][11][12] At the time of launch, Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a ten-page whitepaper he had written elaborating on the vision that asserts that connectivity is a "human right".[13] In the paper, he wrote that Internet.org was a further step in the direction of Facebook's past initiatives, such as Facebook Zero, to improve Internet access for people around the world.

During TechCrunch Disrupt on September 11, 2013 Zuckerberg elaborated further on his vision.[14] TechCrunch blog compared Internet.org with Google's Project Loon.[2] Zuckerberg also released a video on September 30, 2013 explaining Internet.org's goal of making the Internet 100 times more affordable.[15]

On February 24, 2014, shortly before a keynote presentation by Zuckerberg at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on February 24, 2014, Internet.org unveiled several new projects: an education partnership called SocialEDU with Nokia and local carrier AirTel, edX, and the government in Rwanda; a project with Unilever in India; and a new Internet.org Innovation Lab with Ericsson in its Menlo Park HQ.[16] In the presentation, Zuckerberg says that Facebook's recent acquisition of mobile messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion was closely related to the Internet.org vision.[17][18][19]

In May 2015, Facebook announced the Internet.org Platform, an open program for developers to easily create services that integrate with Internet.org. Participating websites must meet three criteria: (1) Explore the entire internet (so as to give users a taste of the wider Internet and therefore help them see the value of the Internet), (2) Efficiency of data use (so that it would be economical for carriers to allow free access to the websites), and (3) Technical specifications: optimized for browsing on a wide range of devices including smartphones and less sophisticated mobile devices, and should not be dependent on JavaScript or HTTPS.[20] This was seen by commentators as a response to concerns raised over net neutrality.[21]

Satellite development[edit]

On March 27, 2014, Facebook announced a connectivity lab as part of the Internet.org initiative, with the goal of bringing the Internet to everybody via drones, acquired from the company Ascenta.[22][23][24][25] It is also communicated by the Connectivity Lab, that, besides using drones, low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites would also be part of the project, for establishing internet connectivity in other areas. All three systems would rely on free space optics (FSO). In free space optics, the signal is sent in a compact bundle of infrared light[26]

At Mobile World Congress March 2015, Mark Zuckerberg says that the Internet.org initiative was "willing to work" with Project Loon (Google's project to use high-altitude balloons to provide people cheaper Internet access) but emphasizes that in his view, the real work is in partnering with existing telecommunications companies to improve access and reduce costs for people already within range of a network, which he estimates at over 80% of the population.[27][28]

In October 2015, Facebook and Eutelsat leased the entire Ka-band capacity (36 spot beams with a total throughput of 18 Gbit/s) on the planned Amos-6 satellite to provide access to parts of Africa[29][30] Amos-6 was intended to be launched on Flight 29 of a SpaceX Falcon 9 to geosynchronous transfer orbit on 3 September 2016. However, on 1 September 2016, during the run-up to a static fire test, there was an anomaly on the launch pad resulting in a fire and the loss of the vehicle and its payload, Amos-6. There were no injuries.[31]

In January 2016, Google had exited Facebook's Free Basics platform in Zambia. They were included in the initial trial of this project, which was first launched in Zambia.[32]

Net neutrality criticism in India[edit]

The first Internet.org summit was held on 9 October 2014 in New Delhi, India. The primary objective of this summit was to bring together experts, officials and industry leaders to focus on ways to deliver more Internet services for people in languages other than English. Zuckerberg also met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to talk about how Facebook and the Indian government can collaborate on Internet.org.[33][34][35][36]

In 2015, Mark Zuckerberg wrote in an article for Hindustan Times stating that Internet.org and net neutrality can co-exist and Internet.org will never differentiate between services.[37] His claims were contested by many response articles, including one published in the Hindustan Times.[38][39] In May 2015, the Internet.org Platform, open to participation by any developers meeting specified guidelines, was announced. Some commentators viewed this announcement as a response to the net neutrality concerns expressed.[21] The PMO has expressed displeasure at Facebook's reaction to and handling of TRAI's consultation paper, calling it a crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll.[40]

An Indian journalist, in his reply to Mark Zuckerberg's article defending Internet.org in India, criticized Internet.org as "being just a Facebook proxy targeting India's poor" as it provides restricted Internet access to Reliance Telecom's subscribers in India.[38] Until April 2015, Internet.org users could access (for free) only a few websites, and Facebook's role as gatekeeper in determining what websites were in that list was criticised for violating net neutrality. In May 2015, Facebook announced that the Free Basics Platform would be opened to websites that met its criteria.[21][41]

In April 2015, some Indian startups start pulling out of internet.org to protect net neutrality.[42][43][44] The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in January 2016 criticized Facebook for its misleading commercials and Astroturfing the Free Basics campaign. TRAI accused Facebook of failing to pass on the four questions in the regulator's consultation paper and also blocking access to TRAI's designated email for feedback on Free Basics.[8][9] By February 2016, TRAI banned the Free Basics service in India based on "Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016" notification.[7] On February 11, 2016 Facebook withdrew the Free Basics platform from India.[10]

Participants[edit]

Below is a selective history of launch dates and participating mobile networks:

Available websites[edit]

The following websites are accessible via the service,[citation needed] although not all are available in certain countries:

Reception[edit]

Expanding Internet access[edit]

An article published on Datamation in August 2013 discussed Internet.org in relation to past accessibility initiatives by Facebook and Google such as Facebook Zero, Google Free Zone, and Project Loon.[71] Internet.org and Project Loon have been described as being engaged in an Internet space race.[72][73][74] There have also been technical debates about the relative feasibility and value of using balloons (as championed by Project Loon) instead of drones,[72] with Mark Zuckerberg favoring drones.[75]

In December 2013, David Talbot wrote a detailed article for Technology Review titled Facebook's Two Faces: Facebook and Google Aim to Fix Global Connectivity, but for Whom? about Internet.org and other Internet accessibility initiatives.[76]

User experience research[edit]

In 2015, researchers evaluating how Facebook Zero shapes information and communication technologies (ICT)[77][78] usage in the developing world found that 11% of Indonesians who said they used Facebook also said they did not use the Internet. 65% of Nigerians, and 61% of Indonesians agree with the statement that "Facebook is the Internet" compared with only 5% in the US.[79]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  4. ^ https://techcrunch.com/2016/11/02/omnipresent/
  5. ^ "Blow To Internet.org As Indian Internet Companies Begin To Withdraw". Huffington Post. April 15, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  6. ^ http://techcrunch.com/2015/04/20/internet-dot-org-indonesia/
  7. ^ a b c "India blocks Facebook Free Basics internet scheme". BBC. 8 February 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Tech Desk (21 January 2016). "Facebook ‘I support Free Basics’ campaign is wholly misplaced, says TRAI". Indian Express. Retrieved 21 January 2016. 
  9. ^ a b Simon Sharwood (21 January 2016). "India just about accuses Facebook of faking Free Basics fandom". The Register. Retrieved 21 January 2016. 
  10. ^ a b "Facebook withdraws the controversial 'Free Basics' platform from India". Times of India. 11 February 2016. 
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  12. ^ Schroeder, Stan (August 21, 2013). "Zuckerberg Wants to Bring the Whole Planet Internet Access". Mashable. Retrieved January 8, 2014. 
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  14. ^ Constine, Josh (September 11, 2013). "Zuckerberg’s Manifest Destiny: Connecting The 5 Billion People Without Internet". Retrieved January 8, 2014. 
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  24. ^ Constine, Josh (March 27, 2014). "Facebook Joins Google In The Hunt For The Future". TechCrunch. Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  25. ^ Metz, Cade (March 27, 2014). "Facebook Will Build Drones and Satellites to Beam Internet Around the World". Wired Magazine. Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  26. ^ Internet.org using free space optics
  27. ^ Constine, Josh (March 2, 2015). "Zuck Says "Sure", Facebook Would Love To Work With Google On Global Internet Access". TechCrunch. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  28. ^ Ramli, David (March 3, 2015). "Mark Zuckerberg shuns Google's Project Loon to focus on 'real work'". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  29. ^ http://money.cnn.com/2015/10/05/technology/facebook-africa-satellites/index.html?sr=tw100615facebook-africa-satellites0215AMStory&linkId=17710503
  30. ^ Peter B. de Selding (6 October 2015). "Facebook, Eutelsat To Pay Spacecom $95M for Ka-band Lease". Spacenews. Retrieved 10 October 2015. 
  31. ^ Malik, Tariq (1 September 2016). "Launchpad Explosion Destroys SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket, Satellite in Florida". Space.com. Archived from the original on 2 September 2016. Retrieved 1 September 2016. 
  32. ^ Kim Arora (20 January 2016). "Google bids adieu to Facebook's Free Basics in Zambia". Times of India. Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  33. ^ "Mark Zuckerberg to meet PM Narendra Modi tomorrow". Deccan Chronicle (via PTI). October 9, 2014. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  34. ^ "Mark Zuckerberg to meet Narendra Modi: Schedule of the Internet.org summit". India.com. October 9, 2014. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  35. ^ "Facebook CEO in India: Key highlights of the Modi-Zuckerberg meeting". FirstPost (via PTI). Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  36. ^ "Mark Zuckerberg addresses the first Internet.org summit in New Delhi; to meet PM Modi on October 10". IBNLive.com. October 9, 2014. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  37. ^ Zuckerberg, Mark (April 17, 2015). "Mark Zuckerberg to HT: Net neutrality and universal connectivity must co-exist". Hindustan Times. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  38. ^ a b Murthy, Mahesh (April 17, 2015). "Internet.org is just a Facebook proxy targeting India’s poor". FirstPost. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  39. ^ SaveTheInternet.in coalition (April 17, 2015). "Dear Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook is not, and should not be the internet". Hindustan Times. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  40. ^ Anandita Singh Mankotia (February 4, 2016). "PMO displeased with Facebook's reaction to Trai's consultation paper". The Economic Times. Retrieved February 4, 2016. 
  41. ^ "Free Basics - FAQ - Documentation - Facebook for Developers". Facebook Developers. Retrieved 2016-03-07. 
  42. ^ Popper, Ben (April 15, 2015). "Indian startups are pulling out of Facebook's Internet.org to protect net neutrality. A groundswell of concern over providing certain apps free of charge". The Verge. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  43. ^ Weinberger, Matt (April 15, 2015). "Indian tech companies are pulling out of Facebook's Internet.org campaign over net neutrality violations". Business Insider. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  44. ^ Hutton, Christopher (April 16, 2015). "Internet.org and India: Companies Pulling Out Of Facebook's Non-profit Service Amid Net Neutrality Concerns A number of Indian internet providers have pulled out of Internet.org's free internet initiative, claiming they're doing it for Net Neutrality reasons.". hngn.com. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
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  55. ^ Facebook's free internet service expands to Malawi // EnGadget.com, 2015-05-14
  56. ^ UrduPoint.com
  57. ^ Hazara News
  58. ^ "Zong Facebook Freebasics". www.zong.com.pk. Retrieved 2016-03-26. 
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  62. ^ Posted on Mark Zuckerberg's Official Facebook Profile
  63. ^ lostiempos.com (Spanish)
  64. ^ a b fbid=10102188427191161&set=a.529237706231&set=a.529237706231.2034669.4&type=1 posetd on Mark Zuckerberg's Official Facebook Profile
  65. ^ a b https://www.cellc.co.za/explore/services/internetorg
  66. ^ "Facebook's free internet service has been shut down in Egypt". The Verge. 
  67. ^ "Free Basics". Korek Telecom. 
  68. ^ a b "Bienvenue sur la page foire aux questions". bip.mg (in French). 2016-06-26. Retrieved 2016-06-26. 
  69. ^ "life:) открыл бесплатный доступ к TUT.BY и Facebook". tut.by (in Russian). 2017-04-13. Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  70. ^ a b c d https://info.internet.org/en/story/platform/
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  72. ^ a b Edwards, Luke (March 27, 2015). "The internet space race is on: Google Loon vs Facebook drones vs SpaceX satellites". Pocket Lint. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  73. ^ O'Brien, Chris (March 5, 2015). "In the race between Google and Facebook over global connectivity, everyone is winning". VentureBeat. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
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  78. ^ "ICT Works". Resource for sharing and expanding knowledge on appropriate information and communication technologies (ICT) and the implementation processes that can make them sustainable in rural and underserved communities across the developing world 
  79. ^ Leo Mirani (9 Feb 2015). "Millions of Facebook users have no idea they’re using the internet". 

External links[edit]