The Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg initiated a move of Free Basics across the world including India that 53 countries and municipalities have already approved till date. But India didn’t yet! The initiative seems much spectacular and welcoming for everyone that also has a motto to cover even those who haven’t accessed the internet yet. Now why would Indian government be so harsh on this matter? The point is, everything is sugar-coated and framed in a different manner. The term that has written ‘free’ grabs the attention of Indians, probably which is why the term “Free Basics” might be given. One must understand precisely what both of these terms actually imply.
Net neutrality implies to the practice in which the users are given access to ‘N’ number of websites without showing any bias. This clearly means that you are free to visit whichever website you wish to visit once you have done the internet recharge. This is what everyone wants. You want to search for a specific topic, simply Google it and hit the Search button, and visit as many webpages you want. It supports unbiased access to the internet for all.
The Free Basics don’t support such facility. It limits to certain number of websites and asks for payment if users wish to open other webpages. Let’s suppose the leading job portal website Naukri.com is under Free Basics. The users then won’t be able to apply for jobs at (say) IBM (if, of course, IBM too is under Free Basics) unless they visit its official website and for that they will need to pay extra. The free internet is limited to certain websites only. This is just an example. The users need to subscribe for certain websites that they want ‘free’. The list of options will be given after then.
Now suppose I want to learn how to cook specific food item and I want to browse for the best website and YouTube.com too doesn’t have the answer in my case, or my idea is to read the written recipe and not watch the video to compensate the slow internet that I might be having, OR it’s simply my choice to browse elsewhere other than YouTube. Now if my Free Basics are allowing me to access only for YouTube I would be charged extra money, probably higher than I’d imagined. How this Free Basics is supposed to help me in this regard?
Now let’s suppose I am a student and working on some kind of project. This obviously needs much information as possible that would be covered in my thesis. I do not know which particular website has the relevant information. What would I do if I subscribed for many other useless ‘free’ sites? There are many websites that contain certain hyper-links redirecting to other web-pages. The users always tend to visit new pages the moment they find anything appropriate and discard soon after they find nothing informational. What would happen if I visit a site(s) (not under free basics) just for few seconds or minutes?
Free Basics has a hidden motive by telecom industries that seemingly shows up like a charity but is motivated towards earning enormous profits. Let’s show you how it works. Assume that you like chocolates and wish to have them for free. You then get to know about a shop where the vendors provide you free chocolates which seems like a dream come true to you. Now they change their scheme from entirely free stuff to ‘Buy 1 Get 1 FREE’. Since you are already addicted to these you will pay for one which cost you 50 bucks. Seems legit to you initially since it would have costed you 100 bucks otherwise but asking you 50 instead! The vendors then shift to another scheme. They ask to buy 2 chocolates and get 1 FREE. You will like this idea as well and you will convince yourself that it’s the era of costly world so paying for some money wouldn’t hurt. You still pay 100 bucks for 3 chocolates instead of straight 150 bucks. You are now used to having 3 chocolates and the vendors are well aware of this. One fine morning they doubled the amount of each chocolate, say 100 for single item, and no free stuffs that you previously enjoyed. Did you understand?
This is the reason why TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) will stick to Net Neutrality for many years. Spreading internet and connecting the whole world is a good idea but one cannot deny the fact that certain factors such as poverty still prevails, forget about just internet, that needs to be sorted out!
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