Social networking site Facebook has taken a leaf out of net neutrality activists to use emails to launch a campaign to India's telecom regulator to push for its Free Basics project that allows telcos free internet access to apps such as Facebook.
The campaign 'Act Now to Save Free Basics in India' asks users to send a message on their behalf to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), saying "I support Free Basics in India."
The message reads: "To the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, I support digital equality for India. Free Basics provides free access to essential internet services like communication, education, healthcare, employment, farming and more. It helps those who can't afford to pay for data, or who need a little help getting started online. And it's open to all people, developers and mobile operators. With one billion Indian people not yet connected, shutting down Free Basics would hurt our country's most vulnerable people. I support Free Basics - and digital equality for India. Thank you."
The campaign is run on the social networking site, which has over 130 million users in India, the second largest globally. It is similar to the
'Save the Internet' drive that was launched early this year by supporters of net neutrality against Internet.org. Internet.org, which was later renamed as Free Basics by Facebook, was an initiative by Facebook in partnership with Reliance Communications to provide free and preferential access to select application and services.
"Unless you take action now, India could lose access to free basic internet services, delaying progress towards digital equality for all Indians. Tell the Trai you support Free Basics and digital equality in India," the campaign site reads.
The campaign comes almost a week after Trai has issued a consultation paper on differential pricing for data services, where it has asked if telecom operators should be allowed to have different pricing for accessing different websites, applications and platforms. Trai said some service providers were offering differential data tariff with free or discounted tariffs to certain contents of certain websites, applications or platforms. Trai has invited comments till December 31.
Facebook's founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg had been pitching for the right to internet access as a basic right to all people. "With Free Basics, we are letting developers offer zero-rated services. This is powerful. We are not being a filter of any content going through that." He added zero-rating is not against net neutrality.
"Hundreds of millions of people in India use the Internet every day and understand the benefits it can bring. This campaign gives people the opportunity to support digital equality in India. It lets people speak in support of the one billion people in India who remain unconnected, and lets them participate in the public debate that is being held by The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on differential pricing for data services. And it gives them the opportunity to support Free Basics, which is proven to bring more people online and accelerate full internet adoption," said a Facebook spokesperson.