I came across this article and this article about Facebook’s Internet.org program coming under scrutiny in India and being suspended in Egypt. The articles report that Facebook is offering a product called the “Free Basic Plan”, which is a plan that allows users of mobile devices to access certain websites, including Facebook, for free through a mobile application. However, this plan is not without it’s critics as the articles above talk about. Most of the criticism I read about comes from proponents of the interventionist net neutrality rules and entrenched businesses. It is interesting how Facebook is being accused of being a gatekeeper, but it’s control is only limited to the application that it offers, for free nonetheless. Facebook does not control what consumers on the broader internet can access.
Facebook released a statement on The Times of India and claims that half of the Free Basic Plan users pay for full internet access within 30 days. I could not find any references to Facebook selling full internet access, so it is unclear how this is harmful to existing internet service providers, especially since this service is targeted a people that do not currently have internet access. Facebook is doing no harm by offering this free service. Seeing that this is a free service, is it not a reasonable expectation that if a company offers a free service, the service will be limited?
The condemnation of Facebook’s free services appears to be one in which special interests are lobbying government regulators to shut down competition by invoking anti-freedom net neutrality rules. These net neutrality rules seem to be somewhat analogous to anti trust for the internet.