While Facebook is intensifying its campaign to garner support for its Free Basics service, Facebook’s Free Basics is deeply flawed and controversial, says a joint statement from over 50 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) faculty members. The statement has been shared on Facebook by IIT Bombay Professor Bhaskaran Raman on a Google Doc.
The statement issued by the IIT professors says “Free Basics is a lethal combination which will lead to total lack of freedom on how Indians can use their own public internet utility. The proposal is such a lethal combination, having several major flaws, beneath the veil of altruism wrapped around it in TV and other media advertisements”.
The professors also raise concerns that the service is not really free as telecom operators will try and recover the cost of Free Basics services from elsewhere. The statement adds that Free Basics violates the core principle of Net Neutrality and TRAI needs to reject the app wrote the 42 professors, who have signed on the protest note.
They argued “The term ‘free’ in ‘Free Basics’ is a marketing gimmick. If you see an ad which says ‘buy a bottle of hair oil, get a comb free’, you know that the cost of the comb is added somewhere. If something comes for free, its cost has to appear somewhere else. Telecom operators will have to recover the cost of ‘Free Basic’ apps from the non-free services. So effectively, whatever Facebook does not consider ‘basic’ will cost more”.