Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says that the company is still “committed” to “working to break down barriers to connectivity” in India, even though the country just effectively blocked part of its plan to provide free internet access to citizens.
The Free Basics program lets users access only certain parts of the internet — like Facebook — at no cost, while other parts would still require data charges. This riled net neutrality advocates in India who argued that the country’s poorer citizens would be relegated to only a limited version of the internet.
Without specifically mentioning Facebook, Free Basics, or Internet.org, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) announced Monday that it will prohibit service providers from taking part in free data programs based on content.
Zuckerberg’s post highlights the fact that Free Basics isn’t Internet.org’s only plan for spreading internet. It’s also testing solar-powered planes, satellite,s and lasers, and finding new ways to reduce the data that Facebook’s app consumers.
“Connecting India is an important goal we won’t give up on, because more than a billion people in India don’t have access to the internet,” he writes. “We know that connecting them can help lift people out of poverty, create millions of jobs and spread education opportunities. We care about these people, and that’s why we’re so committed to connecting them.”
Although Zuckerberg’s response to the blocking of Free Basics comes across very positive, it was a big blow to the company. Facebook reportedly spent ~$45 million defending it.
Here is Zuck’s full post:
Everyone in the world should have access to the internet.
That’s why we launched Internet.org with so many different initiatives — including extending networks through solar-powered planes, satellites and lasers, providing free data access through Free Basics, reducing data use through apps, and empowering local entrepreneurs through Express Wi-Fi.
Today India’s telecom regulator decided to restrict programs that provide free access to data. This restricts one of Internet.org‘s initiatives, Free Basics, as well as programs by other organisations that provide free access to data.
While we’re disappointed with today’s decision, I want to personally communicate that we are committed to keep working to break down barriers to connectivity in India and around the world. Internet.org has many initiatives, and we will keep working until everyone has access to the internet.
Our work with Internet.org around the world has already improved many people’s lives. More than 19 million people in 38 countries have been connected through our different programs.
Connecting India is an important goal we won’t give up on, because more than a billion people in India don’t have access to the internet. We know that connecting them can help lift people out of poverty, create millions of jobs and spread education opportunities. We care about these people, and that’s why we’re so committed to connecting them.
Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. That mission continues, and so does our commitment to India.
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