Zuckerberg's Free Basics On Hold Till At Least End Of January

Mark Zuckerberg

It is said that the date was extended on the request of the COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) and AUSPI (Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India).

Since most of the responses did not answer the questions posed by Trai, they are of no use to the regulator. He told NDTV today that Free Basics cannot launch formally till the regulator completes its consultations with stakeholders, likely in the end of January.

In Egypt, the Free Basic program was available on telecom firm Etisalat Egypt's network.

While it "appreciated the massive participation", Trai said a preliminary scrutiny of responses showed that 14.34 lakh responses were in support of specific products without answering the questions put up for consultation. We have given extra days and appeal to them to frame responses to our questions, giving specific reasons.

Free Basics, which Mr Zuckerberg, 31, says will bring free internet to millions of poor Indians through their cellphones, has been attacked by tech entrepreneurs and many others as created to violate the principles of net neutrality, the concept that all websites on the internet are treated equally. Although the paper by Trai does not mention or use the term Net neutrality, it details the idea of zero-rating platforms that have stirred up a big debate on the issue across the country.

Egypt joined India in halting Facebook's Free Basics program, a service that provides free Internet access to certain websites.

It is important to note that Facebook has launched a multi-media campaign to build the case in favour of its Free Basic - its revised version of the earlier internet.org initiative that was shelved amidst protest by the users.

Not satisfied with such "invalid" answers, TRAI has now made a decision to ask such respondents (who sent comments on Free Basics) to send comments on specific questions pertaining to differential pertaining, rather than supporting "Free Basics".

"Instead of recognizing the fact that Free Basics is opening up the whole internet, they continue to claim - falsely - that this will make the internet more like a walled garden", Zuckerberg wrote, in an op-ed for the Times of India.

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