India’s telecoms regulator has banned mobile networks from offering free access to the Facebook website in a growing row over net neutrality issues.
Facebook’s Founder, Mark Zuckerberg expressed his disappointment with the decision banning differential pricing of data services, which makes Facebook’s Free Basics illegal in the country.
Facebook signs deals with mobile networks where they offer free mobile data access to a slimmed-down version of the Facebook website to encourage people to use the mobile internet.
However, smaller websites struggle to offer comparable deals, putting them at a disadvantage.
The regulator, the TRAI has now banned the practice of charging different rates for mobile data services for different internet services, except in emergencies.
A vocal campaign has been run by Facebook in the run up to the decision by the regulator, prompting some 11 million people to send an automatic email asking the regulator to support Facebook’s position.
However, the regulator dismissed the entire stunt, noting that the “majority of the individual comments received did not address the specific questions that were raised.”
In a statement, the TRAI said that “allowing price differentiation based on the type of content being accessed on the Internet, would militate against the very basis on which the internet has developed and transformed the way we connect with one another.”
TRAI Chairman, Ram Sewak Sharma noted that “packets on Internet, the pipes should not decide. Pipes should be agnostic to the packet.”
Facebooks’ Free Basics is operational in about 19 countries including parts of Africa, but now, no longer in India.