Late last year, the Indian government temporarily banned Facebook's free Basics program over net neutrality concerns. Now, it's banned for good. A new regulation issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India bans more than just Facebook's offering: The ruling bans zero-rated internet services altogether. In simpler terms, that means that services which allow users access to some apps and sites without using up any of their mobile data allowance are now no longer allowed.
Last year, Indian net neutrality activists argued that Free Basics was a way for Facebook to shape internet access. Which is true. Zuckerberg & Co. countered that it's actually a way to connect people who may otherwise not have internet access. Which is also true!
But Facebook's claims to be some kind of charitable foundation, tossing internet this way and that to the needy, don't seem to hold much sway with Indian officials. In the new ruling, the Telecom Regulatory Authority writes plainly that "no service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content".
And with that, Facebook's Free Basics is dead in India.
For its part, Facebook will be disappointed: It's spent a lot of time, money and effort trying to roll out the scheme in India. And it's already had to shut down a similar scheme in Egypt.
All of which suggests that while providing internet to those without it is undoubtedly a good thing, doing so while providing only access to your own software and services doesn't wash in the slightest. Time to try again, Facebook.
Image by AP