Many Nigerians has been enjoying Airtel’s Free basic internet service provided by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook and seventh richest man in the world. The internet.org initiative was introduced in Egypt, but the government later blocked it. India’s government also snubbed the Offer from the 32-year-old tech entrepreneur. Is there a secret behind Free Basic Internet that Facebook don’t want you to know about?
Internet.org is a partnership between social networking services company Facebook and six companies (Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm) with 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.
Presently, there are 37 countries that have joined the service with Egypt, India, and Nigeria inclusive but it has been criticized for violating #NetNeutrality, and by handpicking internet services that are included, for discriminating against companies, not in the list, including Facebook’s rivals.
Free Basic Internet and The Indian god
In a letter written to Facebook CEO by Hindustan Times, it reads, “Dear Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook is not, and should not be the internet”. It reports that Zuckerberg’s ambitious Free Basic Internet project is a sham to confuse hundreds of millions of emerging market users into thinking that Facebook and the Internet are one and the same.
Mr. Zuckerberg made some effort in defending Internet.org but when Christoph Stork, a researcher with Research ICT Africa would find out that it’s statistically impossible that more Africans were saying they had used Facebook than they had the Internet let many of Facebook’s “partners” on Internet.org to quit.
What was an unexpected decision from leading travel website Cleartrip , quickly snowballed, less than 24 hours, into similar announcements from the Times of India Group , NDTV and Newshunt. Nearly 700,000 Internet users have so far petitioned India’s telecom regulator , TRAI, in favor of net neutrality .
Unfortunately, its very first customer Flipkart, India’s leading mobile retailer, pulled out after realizing the significance of an open and unrestricted Internet. This led Indian regulators to issue new rules in February that effectively barred Free Basics Internet.
Free Basic Internet and the Pharoah of Egypt
Free Basics was launched in Egypt in October, aimed at low-income customers, allowing anyone with a cheap computer or smartphone to create a Facebook account and access a limited set of Internet services at no charge.
According to a report, the Egyptian government suspended the service on Dec. 30 and said at the time that the mobile carrier Etisalat had only been granted a temporary permit to offer the service for two months.
According to the report, the Egyptian government said Free Basics was blocked because the company would not allow the government to circumvent the service’s security to conduct surveillance. They declined to say exactly what type of access the government had demanded or what practices it wanted Facebook to change.
Nigeria and Free Basic Internet
In May this year, Facebook in partnership with Airtel Africa launched Internet.org Free Basics in Nigeria. Three months later, August 30th to be precise, a new face of Facebooks Free Basic has surfaced with the name ExpressWifi. The service which lets phone owners have access to cheap internet service is coming to Lagos anytime soon.
The service, made possible via a partnership with local Nigerian internet service provider Coollink, will allow subscribers to browse the sites on Free basics for free, but if you want to go the extra mile, you’ll be charged N40 for 100MB daily up to N1,600 for a 5GB monthly plan.
Mr.Zuckerberg has, cleverly, positioned himself and Facebook as being in favor of Net Neutrality when he writes, “We fully support net neutrality. We want to keep the internet open. Net neutrality ensures network operators don’t discriminate by limiting access to services you want to use. It’s an essential part of the open internet, and we are fully committed to it.”
But Mr. Zuckerberg’s ambitions become clear when, in his article, he says Internet.org is open to “all mobile operators” and “as many internet providers” as possible. Who does he not mention? Internet sites and mobile apps. Because the power to decide which of them get on Internet.org will rest with Facebook. Internet.org is not open, and despite its name, is not the Internet.
And now, come to think of it, Free Basic is a particularly sneaky version of this is #ZeroRating , a way for rich companies and telcos to sign secret deals that exempt certain data traffic from incurring any usage charges. Facebook’s Internet.org is such a scheme.
It has now come to daylight. Free Basic via Internet.org was used to lay the foundation for Facebook spread and now, ExpressWifi, already available in certain places such as the Ikota Shopping Complex, is tool Mark Zuckerberg wants to use in monetizing it. Indeed, “In the race between Google and Facebook over global connectivity, everyone is winning” but who is actually winning?.