Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, is disappointed with TRAI's decision to prohibit tariff plans with differential pricing, but he won't give up on India yet.
"I am disappointed by the telecom regulatory authority decision. Our aim to start Internet.org was to connect the whole world to Internet. The new regulations will hamper the progress of the programs like Free Basics," Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.
Zuckerberg also said that "despite all this we will continue to try and connect India to the Internet. There are more than billion people in the country who doesn't have the access to the world of information. Internet access can help them enhance their lives".
Yesterday TRAI chairman RS Sharma announced in a press conference that "We will not allow telecom operators to discriminate the content on internet. No website or app should be preferred over other. Zero rated programs which violate net neutrality will not be allowed".
Facebook had launched Internet.org in India last February, making it available pan-India in November 2015. It offered the subscribers of Reliance mobile services the access to a set of apps and websites for free. It faced a lot of backlash from start-ups, journalists, and Internet activists.
Following the backlash, a lot of websites such as Flipkart, Cleartrip and the DNA group among others, pulled out of the program. There has been a continuous opposition of zero-rated programs like Facebook's Internet org and Airtel zero. Internet activist groups like Savetheinteret and CCGDelhi has been posting blogs and submitting detailed responses to the telecom authorities.
Numerous start-up founders have also supported the net-neutrality movement. Politicians like Derek O'Brien and Anurag Thakur has brought up the issue in various debates. Zuckerberg and Medianama's journalist Nikhil Pahwa have written op-ed pieces supporting and opposing Free Basics respectively. A report by Backchannel also explored both sides of the argument.
Facebook ran a campaign in December asking users to support free basics through Facebook messages and missed calls. The social network reportedly spent ₹300 crore on the campaign which was to send response to TRAI. The regulatory authority had asked for responses by releasing a consultation paper on differential pricing on 9 December 2015.
A lot of users have responded to Zuckerberg's post. One of the users asked Mark Zuckerberg that why the free basics was limited a couple of websites. To which the Facebook CEO responded saying, "Free basics is an open platform, any developer can join it".
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg also commented on the post saying,"Free basics work and it is connecting millions around the world. It is disappointing that India will not benefit from this".
"You need to pause and think about the Indian demographics. You need to listen to what India's consumers are saying. A colonialist 'trust us, it's for your own benefit' pitch is a hard sell with good reason," American tech blogger and entrepreneur Anil Dash said.
People were elated to hear this news and the reaction was generally positive.
Though Senior journalist Shekhar Gupta felt that it as the victory of a mob.
Don't understand Net Neutrality vs Free Basics but lack of debate/counterpoint makes it look like the louder mob prevailed over FB ad blitz— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) February 9, 2016
Tim Berners-Lee, who is considered to be the father of the Internet has also congratulated India in a tweet.
Meanwhile, in the US a lot of questions are raised against T-Mobile's zero rated program Binge On after this verdict.
You can read TRAI's full statement in this press release.