After many months of preparation, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced that India can finally become a client of its free internet service. The move is part of the company’s bid to connect a whole lot more people to the internet, especially those living in developing countries.
- Facebook’s Free Basics service has become available in all of India’s states
- Internet.org is Mark Zuckerberg’s project of connecting more people to the internet
- Free Basics for India is available exclusively to subscribers of Reliance Communication
- The move sparked renewed debate over net neutrality
Thanks to Facebook’s nonprofit Internet.org, India is all set to benefit from the Free Basics service, allowing all customers of Reliance Communication to access some of their services for free. When the project first launched, it was called Internet.org and was available only in some parts of the country.
After changing its name to Free Basics, the service pulled some strings and managed to become available countrywide. Reliance subscribers can’t complain about the deal, which includes a package of more than 80 free apps and webpages offering access to information about education, jobs, health and communication.
Zuckerberg’s Facebook post with the announcement included the short story of an Indian couple who were able to grow their farming business, all thanks to Free Basics. This is what the service seeks to do: connect the nearly 1 billion people who are currently without internet access in India and offer them “the information and opportunity the internet brings.”
When it was first launched in India back in February, Free Basics was limited to only six of the 29 states of the country. There’s little chance the service will be introduced to other networks; Facebook seems content with partnering exclusively with Reliance Communications, the fourth largest in the country.
The young CEO’s announcement added more fuel to the fire, sparking a new controversy about net neutrality. The debate has been part of the media surrounding Internet.org from the very beginning, questioning Facebook’s intentions regarding net neutrality.
However, Zuckerberg has done everything in his power to emphasize on the fact that both his company and Free Basics are in favor of net neutrality. It’s no wonder Facebook is trying to get more Indians connected to the internet, seeing what a huge market the country is. Of the 1.4 billion users who access Facebook at least once a month, more than 130 million call India home.
Image Source: Mulikamwizi