Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder urges free Internet in India, a controversial plan that would provide a free Internet service to the poor, his latest bid amid an escalating row with authorities on Monday.
The head of the Facebook tried to drum up support for the Free Basics Internet services that offer people with the Internet free access to a handful of websites through mobile phones, in a column in the largest-selling English daily The Times of India.
Comparing the Internet to a library, education and public health care, Zukerberg wrote “If we accept that everyone deserves access to the Internet, then we must surely support free basics Internet services”.
“Surprisingly, over the last year there has been a big debate about this in India,” he added. “Instead of wanting to give people free access to basic Internet services, critics of the programme continue to spread false claims – even if that means leaving behind a billion people.”
Mark Zuckerberg’s personal appeal comes amid fierce criticism from net neutrality activists who say his plan violates the principle that the whole Internet should be available to all and unrestricted by any one company.
Earlier in December the TRAI ordered Reliance Communications, the sole mobile operator for the service, to suspend it temporarily without giving a reason, documents seen by AFP show.
More than 3 million people have petitioned India’s telecoms regulator not to ban Free Basics, formerly named Internet.org.
Free Basics is “at risk of being banned” in India, Facebook said in the adverts, adding that the service aims to help a billion unconnected Indians — mostly living in poor rural areas — to get online.