Free Basics- Pros and Cons

Free Basics- Pros and Cons

What is Free Basics?

Internet dot org was rehashed as Free Basics in September. Free Basics, as per FB, is a open platform which provides Indian developers the chance to make services and websites available free of cost to those lacking affordability for internet access.

Launched 2 years ago globally in partnership with Samsung, Nokia and Qualcomm amidst other partners, the problem with Free Basics is that it does not offer free and equal access to services.

FB is partnering with ISPs to provide selective access to app developers and services. This is against net neutrality which posits free and unbiased internet for all. RCom and FB have launched the Free Basics services under Freenet mobile phone buttons. Released with free access to 33 websites initially, it has been increased to 80 websites before Save the Internet crusaders stepped in.

TRAI has asked to suspend the Free Basic Service after issuing a consultation paper on this issue. Last head, FB is attempting to fend off opposition to the initiative with a INR 100 crore campaign.

FB founder Mark Zuckerberg has argued that developers get to offer zero rated services through Free Basics. But access to mobile internet is more than connecting with social media. It can change and save lives. But just how far is Free Basics free or basic? Is it for the common good or just another virtual money making plan? Is profit the motive or welfare? Let us examine the pros and cons of Free Basics to assess if it is a hit or a miss.


1. Free Basics provides essential services: While many people use social media and the internet for entertainment, access to mobile internet can better lives. From times of civil unrest to natural disasters, social media platforms such as FB use the power of connectivity to find survivors and raise money for aid.

2. Technology and internet create a powerful impact: Technology and internet can scale impact at a rate never noticed before and the power of connecting persons who want to take action is further enhanced through initiatives such as Free Basics.

3. Affordable internet connectivity is a basic human right: Through projects such as Google Loon has been created to relieve victims during natural disasters, Free Basics offers the benefits and opportunities that other initiatives lack.

4. Internet connectivity for more than a privileged few: Free Basics aims to expand the coverage of internet rather than be motivated by profit. This is noteworthy

5. Cause of the common man: Free Basics seeks to uphold the cause of the common man and promote internet access for everybody and not just a select few.


1. Why would a company not want personal gain?: Facebook is aiming to get more users to login across the world, provided that Facebook app is one of the limited series that are part of free internet connection it aims to provide. Facebook attempts to connect the world for selling user data to advertisers worldwide through Free Basics.

2. Lack of internet connections is not a serious problem: Lack of internet connection as a first world problem has been discussed by no less than Bill Fates, who feels that while improving lives, more basic things need to be addressed first such as child survival, child nutrition and access to potable, clean drinking water. Close to 768 million people had no access to clean water in 2011. Having a 3G signal on a cell phone should hardly be the priority.

3. Full internet needs to be provided at prices people can afford: Privilege private platforms cannot be used to provide limited benefits for a chosen view. Free Basics raises questions about data privacy, global economics and net neutrality.

4. 100 crore campaign to promote net neutrality: A 100 crore campaign has been unleashed to promote the idea that Free Basic is a gift for the Indian poor from FB. Moreover, FB is using the generic phase free basic internet in complete contradistinction with the notion that it is a private, proprietary platform which is a blatant violation of Indian rules on advertising. This is because generic worlds cannot be used for products and brands. Neither does FB pay taxes in India nor is it within purview of Indian law. Placing Free Basics in their hands is like giving them power they do not deserve.

5. Rehash of controversial This initiative is just a reworded rehash of the controversial internet dot org floated earlier by FB. FB and India’s leading company Reliance, which is the sixth largest mobile service provider have joined hands for providing this free data services limited to just a few websites.

6. Silicon valley seeks to subvert the state: Noted commentators on technology have discussed how Silicon valley seeks to subvert the rights of the state, promising people connectivity, transport and other facilities which they have no intention of delivering for free, unlike the state. Internet connectivity instead of education and private taxis in the place of public transport point to the hidden, mass scale privatisation of what should be public services

7. Privacy concerns: Internet monopolies are being paid with data because personal data forms the essential currency of the online economy. Data as commodity is prized resource of the 21st century and FB as well as Google’s model is based on monetising this personal data. Consider that FB generates USD 1 billion from Indian subscribers which pays no taxes in return.

8. Free basics is far from free: Free Basics is only a version of FB and is for those websites and services willing to collaborate with its proprietary platform. Consider that there are 1 billion websites and close to 3.5 billion users of the Internet which can become a powerful force for chance. This would stop if telcos become gatekeepers and this is what net neutrality is all about. Health demands doctors and hospitals, not a few websites in FB. The same holds true for education. Internet cannot become a substitute for schools and colleges.

9. Regulating price of data: Free Basics has connected only 15 million people in different parts of the world so far. In India there are 60 million people joining the internet in past 12 months and close to 300 million mobile broadband users in the country. Another 600 million mobile subscribers need to be provided internet, according to estimated figures. Free internet or fill internet at prices people can afford would be a better option than FB’s Free Basics. This is because the main barrier to internet penetration is that India has expensive data services. This caused high price of data in the nation and leads to lowered internet access for the poor and those not financially well off. Free Basics is just a privilege platform attempting to take over the Internet.

10. Just another digital divide: Free Basics also provides just another kind of digital divide rather than connecting people. FB does not equal internet. Free Basics would have us believe otherwise. Silicon Valley is exploiting space and the internet to extend its frontiers through this initiative.


Free Basics is not at all the solution that India needs right now. With cost of data being high and privilege platforms seeking to encash on billions of subscribers in India, Free Basics is just another wolf in sheep’s clothing. This internet platform seeks to capitalise on the lack of internet penetration in India and promote the cause of FB and its associated companies. It is certainly not a gift for India’s public to access internet at a reasonable rate. Will net neutrality become a crisis point? Can people see through Free Basics in time? Hopefully, the answer to those questions is yes or India’s digital divide will never be bridged.
Post your comment


  • RE: Free Basics- Pros and Cons -nakul (01/20/16)
  • Free basic is a sham...a gimmick by Facebook. All of a sudden they realise that..Oh we are not able to touch the lives of ordinary people who can not afford using the internet . This could have been done years back if the intention was so when Facebook has deep penetration into the society and has creadted an loyal addictive user base of Facebook , it plans to use the same stage to voice its own plan. What if facebook was just like Orkut which did not work out well , would they still fight for free basics ? No, i dont think need to have people backing you up for your own personal motives.

    Facebook definitely has personal gain in this project , let say if they tap 100million people on this...who are ready to use and are using this incase this gets through the pipline....if facebook projects just 1 advert each day to these 100million people...and every day a different advert...imagine the marketing revenue it would earn from organisations ready to market themselves through this source.

    Personal gains may not be highlighted right now but in the later stage if this gets approved....this would definitely come up as the next step.
    There are rare apps on google App store which do not give adverts if you download how can we not expect the same from Facebok through the free basics platform
  • RE: Free Basics- Pros and Cons -Deepa Kaushik (12/31/15)
  • Free basics as an idea is good for open discussion, but its fate for a complete success seems meagre. We are not living in a era where people just work for the well-being of the community. Selfishness and personal gains are the primary motto world-wide. Every task has some or the other hidden motive full of selfish requirements. The idea of Free Basic could not be easily digested in the present day selfish mindset.

    Free basics definitely have the benefit of connecting the the world and getting the people come closer to each other. This initiative paves way to the development of all the nations through the latest advancements and inventions across the world. It would be a gateway for knowledge of world-wide happenings which might open up the narrow-mindset at remote areas of the country.

    Yet, the free basic is not a cherry on top of the cake to be picked at first sight. Free basics also opnes up the threat to personal details and hacking. The cyber crime would elevate with the promotion of free basics. For the natural disasters and similar conditions, nothing other than the co-brotherens in the neighbourhood could be of any help. The technology in the form of electricity, water supply, mobile and landline phone networks, the internet connectivity, etc. everything fails altogether in the situations like natural disasters. We cannot expect the free-basics to do any wonder to those suffering lots. It could only spread the message of calamity to different parts of the world, which is done even otherwise.

    Precisely, free basic would be better an option to let go off as the disadvantages like cyber crimes would spoil everything in lure of this free connectivity.