The Basics Of The Free


The Basics Of The Free

EDITOR'S PICK / From the pen of Jitendra Varma   /   Dec 29, 2015


I, for one, support Free Basics of Facebook. But what is it for God’s sake?


How can I refuse the guy that gave me and billions like me the opium of our life? How can I refuse a person who became the richest man (well almost) by giving free his creation to the world? But still sometimes my curiosity gets the upper hand and I try to figure out what is Free Basics. This entire piece is from a very laymen point of view and I will love if any or all of the 86% percent of Indians (that is what the Free Basics full page advertisement tells us) who have supported Free Basics of Facebook to explain and correct me wherever I am wrong.


Mark Zuckerberg’s article in TOI of 28th December talks of free services in the society available to all without any discrimination Libraries for free books, Hospitals for basic health, free basic education and so similarly there should be free tools and information to access all public services to avail fundamental social and economic rights. And that is why everyone deserves to access free basic internet services. He talks of a farmer Ganesh in Maharashtra who after using Free Basics has been able to do wonders for his agriculture.


The objective is to fill the digital divide and make internet accessible to those who may not be able to access information for a cost, a kind of charity for the marginalized folks of the country for information tools to access Jobs, Healthcare, Education and Communication.


How poor is Ganesh? After paying for his mobile bills, his entertainment, his children’s fee etc will he not be able to access internet after paying for the data. Are we to believe that the only thing which is unaffordable and keeping this man away from the benefits of the internet is the cost of the data services and once they get it free he will be enjoying his life to the fullest and stop being poor.


Mark is a shrewd businessman. Internet.Org was a terrible mistake. It shook the whole world. Everybody knew that net neutrality will go to dogs. So Free Basics was born. To douse the fire few core sectors were identified in which the poor and rural people of India, newly introduced to the internet, will be interested and once they are hooked with free data and the internet then the inequality of the internet may be exploited to the hilt.


Zuckerberg wants to give the internet a caste system of its own.


Here are few points we overlook when we talk of Free Basics.

1.              What Zuckerberg is to gain from this free dole he wishes to give


2.              What is his business model


3.              If developers shift to Free Basics and put their services or information will it be viewed by only the poor and rural people or the whole world?


4.              If say, Infosys puts its job on the internet will it have to be either on Free Basics or on Free Basics or exclusively on on paid internet or exclusively on Infosys site to be accessed through Free Basics or by normal ISP provider?


Finally, if has agreed to Free Basics (after entering or not entering any financial arrangement with Free Basics) then why would people like to visit for jobs, where data charges will have to be paid by the end user?


So in fact, Free Basics is creating a segment where the services and information would be put by developers and owners of the site because the people would come here to browse or download free of cost (or there is a charge for download?) In India everyone wants to live free of cost and businesses survive only by giving free or heavy discounts to end users so no one will want to pay for the internet. And Zuckerberg would in one stroke get another 500 million people in his fold; a compulsive need for every service provider and developer to be on Free basics and finally people see only what Zuckerberg wants them to see.


5.              What happens when a medical insurance firm for health services is on Free Basics with higher premium charges and the same services are at lower premium made available by other organisation on the normal paid internet?


6.              What happens when the other ISP providers put up an alternative plan of free internet in competition with Free Basics?


7.              Given the expanding number of internet users – free internet is not very far from becoming a reality – so what is the sudden rush to provide every soul with free internet by a device which excludes all competition and makes the internet a salve of a conglomerate.


8.              And if the one of the world’s richest person is so hell bent to provide free internet to the poor and marginalized as basic services then are there not so many other basic services like 3G and 4G services, entertainment, food and shelter, sanitation, hygiene etc which come on top in the order of priority.


It seems that Mark does have a plan. Facebook may take time to filter down to the last man on the street, so why not capture the people in rural India from the other end giving them something they urgently need. Make it free and then another half a billion people will get everything which Free Basics want them to have.


Did you ever see an advertisement of Facebook asking you to join Facebook? Then why so much of media blitz for Free Basics – something of an old wine in a new bottle. For whom this media blitz is being done? Is it to impress the government Babus and Netas to see the presence of Free Basics? And badger TRAI into submission especially after Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley and asking almost everyone over there to do something for India.


Well, Zuckerberg is hopeful that Mr. Modi’s blessings will allow him to split the Internet into two. 


(image courtesy:

The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi. The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi.
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