back to article Are Indians too stupid to be trusted with free Internet?

Spurred on by wealthy white activists, the Indian telecoms regulator TRAI has stepped in to save poor Indians from themselves. Western elites think they shouldn’t get free internet. Earlier today, India banned differential pricing for data, a move which outlaws any kind of any out-of-bundle data package. That happens to …

  1. Just Enough

    It would be the same anywhere

    The premise of this article is that India's poor is being treated differently, because us smart westerners think that they'll be 'captured' by "Free Basics". This is a misunderstanding of the situation.

    The same would be true true of any internet users in any market. India's poor are not getting treated any differently. If any company anywhere was allowed to offer free-internet then the results would be the same. The competition is killed off, effectively priced out the market, and the company behind the deal is left in a monopoly position. This is as true for rich westerners as it is for poor Indians.

    1. chris 17 Bronze badge

      Re: It would be the same anywhere

      " If any company anywhere was allowed to offer free-internet then the results would be the same. The competition is killed off, effectively priced out the market, and the company behind the deal is left in a monopoly position. This is as true for rich westerners as it is for poor Indians."

      Then the government should provide the same kind of service, gratis to their people. Once people gain access to these types of service, they will naturally demand more and hopefully the price will go down as they become more wealthy as a result of the extra services they are able to access.

      This has to start somewhere, and they can't afford or currently probably even don't want access to the full internet.

      France had Minitel, UK had Prestel & then Teletext, US had bulletin boards, all very primitive by today's standards but satisfied a need for citizens to communicate & disseminate information electronically

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: It would be the same anywhere

      "India's poor are not getting treated any differently."

      Demonstrably, they are. Basics is live in 37 countries and has been shut down by the elites in just two.

      1. PleebSmasher

        Re: It would be the same anywhere

        "Demonstrably, they are. Basics is live in 37 countries and has been shut down by the elites in just two."

        Facebook found a country that it can't boss around like a Silicon Valley imperialist.

      2. Graham Cobb

        Re: It would be the same anywhere

        Demonstrably, they are. Basics is live in 37 countries and has been shut down by the elites in just two.

        Many, but by no means all, countries have legislation preventing the sale of physical goods at below-cost prices, to help prevent monopolisation. Just as in this case, whether to make that illegal is a national decision, taking into account their own national circumstances and their national approach to regulation. Does that mean that the poor in Belgium, Canada and South Africa are being treated unfairly?

      3. Pirate Dave

        Re: It would be the same anywhere

        " Basics is live in 37 countries and has been shut down by the elites in just two (so far)"

        FTFY...

    3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: It would be the same anywhere

      The competition is killed off, effectively priced out the market, and the company behind the deal is left in a monopoly position.

      This is complete horseshit. Akin to "pre-crime" it identifies the "pre-monopolist" and assumes that any new entrant to the as-yet-nonexistent market can't compete with "basic lousy free". I know of no market where that happens. Some people should get a mighty kick in the nads and be told to go back to micro economics 101, and not the one by the Marxists.

      (Kudos btw for using the image adorning the 1982 edition of the Oxford University Press translation of Winfried Baumgart's "Imperialism: The Idea and Reality of British and French Colonial Expansion 1880-1914", a book that deserves to be re-read)

      1. Just Enough

        @ Destroy All Monsters

        Nothing "pre" about it. There are already companies in India in this market. Facebook is already in this market in India. This is a case of Facebook saying "We've lots of cash, so we can crush this online market in its infancy." It would make it practically impossible for other companies to survive. The masses with little money would use Facebook approved free services. Those who need to talk to the masses will naturally use those same services. Those who need to talk to those who talk to the masses would follow. And so on all the way up. The top tiers may be using the "premier" versions, but it'll still all be based within the companies permitted in Facebook's cosy club at the bottom.

        The bait of free internet might seem on the face of it attractive. After all, as long as people are getting online for free that must be good, right? But it would leave India with the internet that Facebook thinks India needs. And don't lets kid ourselves, it will ultimately be run on the basis of what's good for Facebook. Any hope of a vibrant, competitive market would be lost, without any input from Indian companies, who might be far better placed to determine what's good for India.

    4. Ole Juul Silver badge

      Re: It would be the same anywhere

      Here in Western Canada I see people with perfectly good internet connections get introduced to Facebook by well meaning friends trying to "teach them the internet". That appears to kill their wider internet experience which one would hope they would move on to participate in. For some reason Facebook seems to block their progress. I'm not sure how to explain this in terms of this article because these people are definitely not poor, but it would indicate to me that it is not a good idea to start people off with a Facebook experience.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It would be the same anywhere

      There is no market. They have no money.

      1. unitron

        Re: It would be the same anywhere

        "There is no market. They have no money."

        Years ago, that's what I was thinking when people were going on and on about China being a vast uptapped market.

        What I didn't realize was that that little problem was going to be solved by sending our jobs over there.

  2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  3. Florida1920 Silver badge

    The Party line

    "We fight for a free and open internet, advocating for the Net Neutrality principle that internet access should be offered to everyone on a nondiscriminatory basis, without favoring certain websites, applications, or services." -- Accessnow -- Net Discrimination

    Mr. Levy is only parroting the mantra of the organization that employs him. "Access" is what they say it is.

  4. Mage Silver badge
    Devil

    It's not free Internet.

    Free Basics has launched in over of the 30 of world’s poorest populations.

    And it's not free nor the Internet. It's a malicious exploitation and curated walled garden of data.

    I think the Indians are smart.

    "Nobody could mistake the Basics walled garden experience for the full internet."

    It's not even like AOL or WAP. It's tiny. It's promotion is grossly dishonest.

    A fairer analogy would be The Raj's export of Indian Cotton to UK (or maybe just England) and Indians having to buy only British Cotton.

    Facebook are only helping themselves.

  5. Mage Silver badge

    Google

    Possibly worse than Facebook.

  6. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    $1 per day

    For people who earn $1 a day, then, Basics is an entry point into a world that was previously out of their reach.

    But what are they going to be entering it with? If they're on $1 a day then where do they get the $100's computer from? And if they're accessing via a communal computer, like the sort that's available at public libraries, why do they need their own ISP?

  7. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    "Are Indians too stupid to be trusted with free Internet?"

    No.

  8. Trigonoceps occipitalis

    They can use it to organise socially and politically.

    And there you have it. Why risk it you are in power or a member of an elite* caste.

    * elite - this it is a matter of opinion, any one want to try and justify the caste system?

  9. Paul Shirley

    meanwhile "wealthy white reactionists"

    ...loudly claim Indians can't decide their own future, deal with wealthy white activists or spot which of them might be telling porkies...

  10. Turtle

    Some Way, Some How.

    Isn't there some way to support free internet for India's poorest, while not turning them into fodder for the Facebook and Google machines?

  11. msknight Silver badge

    Hang on....

    India did decide for itself. Didn't it?

  12. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  13. W Donelson

    Honestly, agree with you 100%

    especially on electricity and clean water. Maybe even for Flint!

    1. CCCP

      Re: Hang on....

      Exactly that. The article author needs to take his anti-irony spectacles off.

      His line of reasoning has him come across as worse than Zuck.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: $1 per day

      "I don't see why the working class need baths in their homes. They'd only keep coal in them"

      1. YARR

        Re: $1 per day

        I guess poor people in wealthier countries who can't afford internet access don't qualify for Free Basics because they're not projected to become more "middle class"?

        If your choice of food brand was as binding as your social network, food companies would be handing out free food to the world's poor.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: $1 per day

        This isn't like asking why a poor man needs a bathtub in his home. It's like asking why a poor man needs a bathtub if he doesn't have a home to put it in.

        The service (or bathtub) is useless if the owner has no way to take advantage of it. And unlike the bathtub, there's nothing you can do with an internet connection, except sell the copper wire.

      3. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: $1 per day

        Thats not really an anwer and more of a strawman argument. He's not saying they don't NEED computers or that a computer would be wasted on them. He is (rightfuly) wondering how someone on a $1 dollar a day budget is going to get access to even the Basics "internet" on offer. The probable answer is that indeed many communities will be sharing a device paid for from some common source and that then paying for continued full internet access might be too much of a burden.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: $1 per day

        " They'd only keep coal in them"

        Surprisingly - some did. That's not apocryphal.

        Just because some things were considered by the middle class to be aspirational - many did not see the need for them. In the same way the middle classes tried to impose their own rules of etiquette and language. The crooked little finger when drinking tea out of a china cup is probably one of the more extreme examples of middle class affectations - and eating perfectly solid cakes with a fork.

    3. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: It's not free Internet.

      "It's a malicious exploitation and curated walled garden of data."

      I'm saving this for Quotes of the Year. It's that good.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's not free Internet.

        You're right, it is a good quote. I'm glad you're reasonable enough to see his point of view!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's not free Internet.

        I'm saving this for Quotes of the Year. It's that good.

        You'll have to forgive Mage, he was talking about Apple and just posted in the wrong thread.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Some Way, Some How.

      Yes. Socialism.

    5. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Honestly, agree with you 100%

      Clean water for Flint? That's crazy talk!!

      More seriously, I'm fine with the Indians deciding what is best for them, provided that this Indian commission isn't taking bribes from Google/Indian ISPs.

    6. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: It's not free Internet.

      So like the old AOL, then?

      Yeah, that sucked and sucked hard.

    7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Hang on....

      India did decide for itself.

      This like when "Parliament decides for the UK", only far worse and with fatter horses being traded.

    8. Graham Cobb

      Re: Some Way, Some How.

      Isn't there some way to support free internet for India's poorest, while not turning them into fodder for the Facebook and Google machines?

      To be honest, I am amazed that Zuck hasn't done this. I am certain that he could come up with a subsidy offer that does not require a walled garden, was (at least) financially break-even and which would gather him MASSIVE positive support, and a billion new customers, in the world's largest democracy.

      Why not just sponsor (limited speed) internet access, with no site restrictions but with massive advertising and promotion of facebook, and (financially contributing) partner sites. Completely neutral and advertising subsided. The way things work in other markets!

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hang on....

      India did decide for itself. Didn't it?

      That would depend upon your defintion of "India". I would suggest that the evidence is that a small clique of regulators and the political masters decided for India without consulting the poeple. A bit like Sturmbahnfuhrer May's choice to have the Snooper's Charter. By your logic, the people of Britain have chosen to have a Snoopers Charter.

      1. JustWondering

        Re: Hang on....

        I wouldn't be surprised if Indian Telecoms were helping to push this through with at least a hint of self-interest involved.

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Some Way, Some How.

      Isn't there some way to support free internet for India's poorest, while not turning them into fodder for the Facebook and Google machines?

      There's no free lunch, so there are only three options:

      1) you get something "free" but you are in fact the product.

      2) Or you pay for it.

      3) Or some other group are made to pay on your behalf.

      In this case, it seems the Indian government have decided that option 1 is wrong (without needing to let the population decide for themselves), option 3 is not apparently on the table, and as the peasants can't afford option 2, they can do without it.

      1. Andy Davies

        Re: Some Way, Some How.

        it seems the Indian government have decided

        TRAI isn't the gov't - it is an independent authority - OK, quango if you like.

    11. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They can use it to organise socially and politically.

      "[...] any one want to try and justify the caste system?"

      Human tribal nature - it's hereditary and is enshrined by nepotism. The UK is now settling into a new era where upward mobility is once again confounded by class barriers in education and careers.

      Same as the ruling elite in the UK and probably the USA. Note how many new generation politicians come from elite political families - irrespective of political party. Even theoretically communist countries often establish family dynasties.

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: They can use it to organise socially and politically.

        AC,

        I am well aware of the reason and the tribal nature of human society. That is not a justification for what seems to be a particularly pernicious system. Work hard in the UK and you will be accepted by most of society even if you do not leave your roots behind. A Dalit is always a Dalit and a Brahmin always a Brahmin.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: They can use it to organise socially and politically.

          The privileges and limitations that the caste system imposes on Indians, while still present, are rapidly being eliminated. Their constitution (whose primary author, Dr. Ambedkar, was a Dalit), guarantees equality under the law and moreover there are significant reservations (much more prevalent than American affirmative action) in many spheres of life, especially in education and government jobs, to ensure that disadvantaged groups get a leg up.

    12. DainB Bronze badge

      Re: $1 per day

      1 dollar in India buys you waaaay much more than in USofA or any other first world country, so only people who do not understand basic economy would ever use that argument.

      Providing free access to English language content for people who at large do not speak it is on a totally different level of usefulness.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: $1 per day

        "Providing free access to English language content for people who at large do not speak it is on a totally different level of usefulness."

        English has long been the lingua franca of India. There were protests when the government said that it would no longer be the official language. Favouring one of the regional languages instead it is politically/tribally divisive.

        1. DainB Bronze badge

          Re: $1 per day

          Yep, in rural villages where people earn those $1 a day everywhere you go everyone speaks perfect English. Or do they ?

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: $1 per day

            Surprisingly, lots of them do. Something to do with India having been a British colony or something.

          2. Tom 13

            Re: everyone speaks perfect English.

            As I recall, when India first gained its independence, one of the first things they tried to do was throw out English as the official language because it smacked too much of colonialism. Then they discovered the only way the various regions could talk to one another was in English. So they kept it. I mean, you might like the Germans manage to construct High Indie out of the various dialects (more numerous than they were in Germany) but you'd then have a language nobody knew and everybody would have to learn. Much easier to just stick with English, (Even if it is a bitch to learn since we've imported from damn near every other language on the planet without regularizing things. And that's BEFORE you get to the differences between British and 'Merkin English.)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: everyone speaks perfect English.

              " I mean, you might like the Germans manage to construct High Indie out of the various dialects [...]"

              Hindi is the majority language - if you include the many regional variations of it. Some of the other languages aren't even Indo-Aryan. There are about twenty other officially recognised languages - but that excludes many of the smaller ones. That is why English remains a neutral administrative requirement.

              IIRC The recent conservative government tried to establish Hindi as the only official language - and effectively their particular reading of Hindu as the prime religion. The latter has also involved censoring the Hindu religious stories to remove the sexual activities and particularly the homosexuality of the gods. As yet they haven't actually destroyed the ancient temple statues that have shocked/amused many tourists.

              This rewriting of the country's cultures into a particular conservative brand has been resisted by many people.

              The situation is akin to apartheid South Africa where the lingua franca between the many native tribes was English. An attempt to force Afrikaans to be used instead in their schools led to the township student riots.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_with_official_status_in_India

    13. James Wilson

      Re: $1 per day

      Smartphones. Free Basics is mobile data. I'm guessing probably budget Androids rather than iPhone 6Ss...

    14. Alien8n Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: They can use it to organise socially and politically.

      "And there you have it. Why risk it you are in power or a member of an elite* caste.

      * elite - this it is a matter of opinion, any one want to try and justify the caste system?"

      Most of them are probably still Mostly Harmless...

      (Mine's the one with the Military Lasers in the pocket)

    15. werdsmith Silver badge

      "Are Indians too smart to be zuckered by Faecebook?"

      Yes,

    16. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Some Way, Some How.

      "fodder for the Facebook and Google machines"

      yes, screw those evil parasites , those giant monsters who will just eat a soul up and spit him out when his wallet , and life are fully drained.

      Damn them and their completely free services. If only they hadnt made them completely subscription free, optional , easy to use.

      I mean that google , a universal search engine that can search the whole internet for you in less than a second (and 100x better than the comptition) - who needs that? screw them , I'd rather flounder around trying random URLS till i get where i want.

      I mean a search engine? for free? stupid idea. Once the internet gets big enough it may one day need one . Maybe once it gets as big as my encyclopedia Brittanica cos i definately need the index on that or id be lost.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: trying random URLS ..

        ..as big as my encyclopedia Brittanica..

        With FREE FREE FREE BASIC A sites you will need a small chit in your pocket.

        (Anon just because everyone is yawning now)

    17. Tom 13

      Re: Hang on....

      If FB can buy off the far wealthier US, India was chump change.

      Not that I expect logical consistency from the sort of progtards who chant that mantra.

    18. Tom 13

      Re: Are Indians too stupid to be trusted with free Internet?

      Like their richer western counterparts, probably not.

      However, like their richer western counterparts, their regulators may well be.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some good points but you miss the fundamental fact that this "Free" internet is controlled by companies. What if they prefer one political leader would they allow these "poor" indians access to balanced websites and information or would they push them to non-balanced ones. That's just one example of why this is wrong on so many levels and is just a land grab by western companies, selling something to Indians and signed up to advertise on "Free Basics" then it's happy days, if you're not it's who are you again?

    Also it may be a throwback of AOL but at the end of the day if it's free and I can get what I want (or what they think I want) why on earth would I start paying for it? Why would any company invest in creating networks on the chance that no one will pay for it?

    It's an exercise in moving control and it may be coming to a rich western country near you soon because let's face it the rise of the tablet was down to most people not needing a pc and those are the same people that stick to the same websites and rarely deviate. e.g. Bank/News/Shop/Catchup TV. Facebook will play nice to start with, allow lots of sites then once it has them by the balls the extortion begins.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      "What if they prefer one political leader would they allow these "poor" indians access to balanced websites and information or would they push them to non-balanced ones."

      Well we, in the west, have been running a decades-long experiment to find out exactly what does happen in that situation. *cough* Murdoch *cough*

    2. Tom 13

      Why would any company invest in creating networks

      on the chance that no one will pay for it?

      Why indeed? Yet across the globe tens of thousands of companies do that every year. Most fail but some succeed. In this case, maybe because the company thinks enough people want out of the walled garden. I do recall this problem back when AOL was big enough to swallow Time-Warner instead of the other way around. Back in those days, 70%+ of internet users couldn't navigate the internet without putting a keyword into AOL and it taking them to a bastardized copy of the actual site. But slowly raw internet service providers popped up. These days AOL is usually the punchline to a bad joke. But once upon a time they looked bigger than Microsoft.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice propaganda brah. The Indian people themselves are protesting this one without a white imperialist in sight.

    Presumabily they're also educated fairly well city dwellers doing the actual protesting, but that's OK. Many thing are banned in the name of inalienable rights and consumer protection.

    You can shove your American neo-liberalist "people should be free to sell themselves into slavery" claptrap.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      "Nice propaganda brah. The Indian people themselves are protesting this one without a white imperialist in sight."

      A few members of the rich Indian elites have captured their telco regulator. (The same thing happened in the US) Both think Indians can't be trusted to make a choice we managed to make. Guardian racism in a nutshell.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Make your mind up, it's either the whites or the indians, surely it can't be both because that then makes your article null and void or are you claiming all elites are against this? I'm confused.

        Free Basics is a turd, it's a nasty turd with one intention and that is to push the poor of this world into a shithole internet controlled by corporations, I couldn't care less if the great white man or indian try and stop it but someone needs to. I give it 12 months and we'll see how it goes in the other countries that haven't stopped it.

  16. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: designated shitting streets

      This is a country that can transport a nuke into your hometown.

  17. the spectacularly refined chap

    Careful with the allegations of imperialist attitudes

    Now, even if you find Facebook the company a self-serving, sanctimonious and creepy organisation – as I do – the decision is troubling, as it suggests that colonial thinking is alive and well, particularly amongst the Whole Earth-shopping chattering classes.

    The campaign against free internet implies that the poor are too stupid to be allowed a choice, and must be saved from making that choice.

    India is the world's largest democracy. They can cope with a few lobbyists and come to their own decisions. It is the assumption that those former colonials are somehow unable to sort through the arguments and come to their own decision that shows contempt to the people and government of India. If the allegation that the ban removes the decision from India's hands then why do they protest so loudly when India makes that decision for itself. The US foreign policy version of democracy ("Do whatever you like provided we agree with you") is a sham, not people coming to their own decisions about issues that affect heir own communities. No, they have looked at the issue and made a decision. That is their right and their right alone.

    I can't even say I disagree with them, although I don't have strong feelings either way. Some of the technical restrictions are arbitrary at best - for example a blanket cap on the size of images regardless of whether it is a small icon or a company logo on one hand or a photo of a painting for arts education or a highly complex technical illustration on the other. Far from allowing Indians to trade with each other, the restrictions on encryption and requiring content to be cacheable effectively make that impossible. Oh, you'll be able to get around that, just give give Facebook their 15%. No you don't have any choice in that, because you can't afford to forget those 300 million users on the platform in your home market. Nor can they switch to an alternative platform, since those are now premium services and the cost of them has risen out of reach.

    Take off the rose tinted spectacles and it is not a no brainer, as Orlowski admits this is not being done out of altruism. It shows nothing but those very imperialist attitudes if you believe that India is somehow unable to weigh the pros and cons and come to an informed decision.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Careful with the allegations of imperialist attitudes

      Indian politics is split along caste religion language and regional lines. Hence national issues can be sidelined in favour of narrow viewpoints.

      It also tends to the dynastic, and there's a fair bit of political corruption around development grants etc.

      Largest in India's case means biggest, not the most engaged.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Careful with the allegations of imperialist attitudes

      To be fair, Andrew thinks that they should be able to decide individually--rather than as a collective--whether or not to take advantage of the service.

      Though, I do think their government made the right decision. It is very unlikely that a first time internet user would have the knowledge to understand the decision being posed to him. If you've never used the internet, you're not likely to know what Facebook is or how it operates. If you expect that your populace cannot provide informed consent, then a properly functioning government should employ experts to help make that decision for everyone. Especially for cases--like this one--where there won't be much variation between the individual citizens.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Careful with the allegations of imperialist attitudes

        This is an almost perfect expression of the apparent contempt of those who have a lot for those who do not: "it is very unlikely that a first time internet user would have the knowledge to understand the decision being posed to him."

        I suspect most of them, if not all, would understand clearly that the decision (denied to them) is whether to have limited internet service that they can afford or no internet service because it is beyond their means.

        How much better is it to have a one tier Internet available only to those who are well off than a two tier Internet that is available to some degree to everyone?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Careful with the allegations of imperialist attitudes

          You've actually done a good job of proving my point: You don't even understand the decision being posed to them. Yes, they get to choose between walled garden service, and no service. No service comes with no cost, but the walled garden service comes with all the usual cost of Facebook. All the silent privacy violations, all the public privacy violations, all the appropriation of copyrights, and certainly all the advertising rights.

          It isn't that rich people understand the decision, it's that people that understand Facebook's business practices understand the decision. Tons of wealthy internet users are happy with Facebook, because they don't understand that the decision to use Facebook comes with a cost. Just not one paid with their money. Try explaining that to someone that's lived in a rural village their entire life. Now repeat for the other billion people in the country.

  18. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Big Brother

    I would guess those saying it is terrible that Indians are being denied a free internet experience would see it rather differently were it Islamic State, North Korea, Iran, Russia or China offering to provide the service for free.

    I imagine there would be all sorts of outcry about how it would be wrong to allow that and handing over such controlling access influence over India's deprived masses.

    I will leave it for others to decide how on par Facebook is with the Bad Guys (TM) of the world but the controlling influence issue is exactly the same.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Islamic State - probably no

      North Korea - probably no

      Iran - why not?

      Russia - why not?

      China - why not?

      > the controlling influence issue is exactly the same.

      This is arse.

  19. Mephistro Silver badge

    If India had accepted this, what kind of pressure could Facebook apply on the involved ISPs? And on the Indian Government? And the Indian media?

    IMO this Free Basics thing is terribly dangerous thing, specially for a developing country.

  20. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    I'm giving you free food...

    But you first must sign over your land, family and fortune. But the food is certainly free.

    It's fine to offer a service. However, there are many people making fraudulent claims. For someone to first ask to check if it is really what is on offer is fine.

    Better they check now, than risk failure later.

  21. User McUser

    Why not let the Indians figure out what they want?

    Leave them be to sort this out for themselves and offer advice only when *asked* for it. The Indian people have to find the appropriate Indian solution to an Indian problem.

    We can all argue about what's right or wrong for them but let's face it - virtually none of us are going to have to use whatever system ends up in place. So why should our dumb opinions even matter?

  22. Old Handle
    Alien

    LOL

    I could tell right away who wrote this, just from the headline.

  23. DavCrav Silver badge

    "Cory Doctorow, Median income $63,358.

    Josh Levy, Median income $57,000"

    Yeah, we're really in the elite big league now. And on the opposing side:

    Mark Zuckerberg: $35bn.

    Yeah, I'm not sure which side is the 'elite' here, but when one side is a multi-billionaire, accusing the other side of being the elite is a weird one.

  24. martinusher Silver badge

    Equal Opportunity

    Colonialism and racism are distinctly equal opportunity. The only reason why we white Caucasians got tagged with it is that we were, historically speaking, a whole lot better than it than the natives. We have for the most part grown out of it but the same cannot be said for other cultures.

    Getting people basic data services -- preferably without turning them into somebody's data product -- should be the goal of every society. Its not quite as essential as clean water and sanitation but its close because it enables real farming (not just Farmville), improves health at both the individual and public levels and acts as a tool to combat ignorance (although you'd have a hard time believing this from the current political landscape in the US).

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh...

    ...and perhaps some clean drinking water, plumbing that isn't "the front yard", perhaps a few more grains of rice per month, Sir? Maybe we could sell off a few of those nuclear weapons or not buy a New Air Force again this year? Hmmm? Just a thought...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh...

      "Maybe we could sell off a few of those nuclear weapons or not buy a New Air Force again this year?"

      one word answer to the question - Pakistan

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh...

        India is not poor today because of military expenditure (2.2% of it's GDP, which is not at all unreasonable given the threats it faces). In fact India is poor today because it was militarily too weak to defend itself against colonization (it was 24% of world GDP in 1750 at the beginning of the colonial period, only 3% of world GDP soon after independence in 1950). Not only does it face nuclear threats on the west (Pakistan) and the east (China), but it was also threatened by a nuclear-armed US 7th fleet sent by Nixon against India in 1971. I suspect it was this threat from the US that finally convinced India to build its own nuclear arsenal because in 3 years (1974) it had its first successful nuclear explosive test. If you want a country to disarm, the dumbest thing you can do is threaten it. Some countries (like Ukraine) now probably regret getting rid of their nuclear weapons after believing promises of the nuclear states.

        1. x 7

          Re: Oh...

          " In fact India is poor today because it was militarily too weak to defend itself against colonization"

          bollox

          Part of the reason India is so poor is because colonisation ended.

          Face it, without Imperialism (mainly Brit, but some German/French/Portugese) India would be without any trace of the industrialisation which enables some of it citizens to improve their standards of life. Without the colonial input, India, with its exponential population growth would be on a starvation track which would make the worst that black Africa has to offer seem benign

  26. Mark 85 Silver badge

    This is all an interesting take on things. I'm seeing it as the government is listening, but the question is: "to whom are they listening?". We see that Google has a stake in this and like any other corporate (FB included), there's no such thing as a free lunch. Lobbying is nothing new, as there's been those who have the king's, emperor's, pharaoh's, etc's ears since the dawn of civilization. I would hope that the government is looking behind the rhetoric and the lobbying efforts to decide what is actually best.

    I do think that this is a good thing, as long as the opposing corporates to FB plan don't now jump in to fill the void with their own version.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Mark 85 - Sorry to bother you with this but

      there definitely is a free lunch unless you show us here the invoice your mother sent you for breastfeeding (or equivalent milk formula) you received. Forget about and diapers and handling and other stuff, just lunches.

      Also in my tradition, free lunch exists. It is called hospitality.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Unhappy

        Re: @Mark 85 - Sorry to bother you with this but

        and you do not feel indebted to your parents and repay them with care in their old age? also hospitality usually involves a quid pro quo some where. Truly free lunches rarely occur in human society, sadly

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: @Mark 85 - Sorry to bother you with this but

        If you'll note, it's a corporate providing the "free lunch". What does the corporation expect in return?

        Sheeesh....

  27. ecofeco Silver badge

    Uh, what?

    This article defined the issue to make it clear as mud.

    Much opining and with facts lean and lost in the mud. I still don't know who the players are and the GOP are NEVER for anything that benefits the average person so that part made no sense at all.

  28. A Long Fellow

    Is "free" == "good"?

    Parallel: food aid? Notwithstanding the edge case of famine, nothing destroys local farming quite as effectively as low-cost food dumped into a poverty-stricken country.

    A western-owned company offering "free" internet will effectively kill any Indian company that might have wanted to establish a business in the "low-cost" internet provision space. Keeping Facebook out will encourage local industry and innovation.

    Could a "manipulation" story be written around the decision? Yes. Could the decision have been reached for reasons that are entirely beyond the sphere of the imputed manipulation? Also yes.

    Ultimately, wide-scale internet access is India's problem. If India wants help, it surely has a voice to ask. And if it rejects an offer, I'm willing to consider the possibility that the decision-makers might be wise enough to have made their own decisions.

  29. This post has been deleted by its author

  30. m0rt Silver badge

    AO has a good point.

    Why was it outlawed? it was free* even if it was a walled garden.

    Arguably what Google serves up in its search engine is a walled garden.

    Personally, if there was no agenda, it could have co-existed easily. I am no fan of Farcebook by any stretch of the imagination. But imagine banning free libraries because they had a limited selection of books that were chosen by, oh I dunno, Amazon, in favour of bookstores only. (Actually, thinking about that, I can see that being the case). Extend it. Imagine banning OLPC because of home grown computer companies. Or am I missing the point?

    Meh. Miserable barstewards, the lot of you. And coming from me, that is saying something.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @m0rt - Re: AO has a good point.

      you stopped in the middle with your comparison: let's imagine free libraries that also prevent you from reading other books outside their selection. That's much closer to reality.

      1. Schlimnitz

        Re: @m0rt - AO has a good point.

        Don't be obtuse, nothing prevents them going and buying any books they like from a bookshop. Except that they haven't got enough money.

        Yet.

        1. marees

          Re: @m0rt - AO has a good point.

          what if a rich person donated some of his books free to the library and the library allowed you to rent those books alone for *free*? but you still get charged regular membership fee to enter the library?

          THAT is the situation in India. it is not free but part of a overall monthly package for a regular data plan but you once you run out of monthly quota you get to access Facebook's free websites alone without having to top-up & this doesn't include WhatsApp that is also owned by Facebook.

  31. Dr. G. Freeman
    Joke

    Yes, I think they are too stupid.

    Granted I also think that 99.9999999% of the human race is too stupid to exist, but working in retail will do that to you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Dr. G. Freeman - being constantly exposed to marketing

      ends up having the same effect.

    2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      "99.9999999% of the human race is too stupid to exist"

      How nice. That leaves how many? About 7 persons for the entire world?

  32. szielins

    It's kinda fun watching the right trying to catch the moderates in a logical trap. "Nuh-uh! YOU'RE the cultural imperialists!"

  33. Rol Silver badge

    Indian Visage Tome?

    Perhaps, India has a great idea to start its own social network and thus isn't going to give facebook a foot in, to its lucratively huge domestic market.

    And frankly, why should a company that garnered traction with its large domestic market to push itself into the worlds face get an easy ride in India, or China, or Russia.

    If only I could have added Europe into that sentence, but alas, a common market, with the most uncommon of folk, does not a coercive force make.

  34. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Nestlé baby milk

    That didn't turn out too good either.

    A few prettied-up Wikipedia pages, banking websites, and Facebook is not really the Internet. I'd have thought the poor deserved more than that.

  35. israel_hands

    It's Still Not Free Internet

    It's not access to the net. That would be a fantastic thing to deliver to people who can't afford it (although it's clearly a much lower fucking priority than food and sanitation). But what's being offered isn't that. It's a vastly cut-down choice which is designed purely to get people used to doing things Facebook's way. So that when the same people can afford to pay for fully unlimited net access, they'll probably stick with what's comfortable, because that's how people are. All people, because we're essentially the same animal and that's how we work.

    It's nothing but funnelling people into Facebook's user db so they can keep claiming ever higher user counts and keep pushing up their stock price.

    I've got an issue with more than a few specific points in this article, but mostly it's the entire tone that hacks me of. Framing this as a rich white vs poor brown issue is utter bullshit and I'm normally the first person to point out condescending first-world attitudes to racism and "poor foreigners". Accusing this of being race-based or cultural imperialism is like comparing it to the holocaust. It's just a headline grabber that only needs to be uttered without the argument itself making any sense.

    A few things stick out though: Slating Google as farming people for data is all well and good, and spot on the mark. But for fuck's sake don't do it when defending Facebook, who are in the exact same game (or did they stop being data-mining, ad-slinging pricks while my back was turned and start charging for access?)

    Using data from the Republican party to support your "argument". These are the same bell-ends who passionately hate free healthcare, right? Because it doesn't make enough money for their donors, right? But suddenly they support free internet access? Can you see where I'm going here?

    Also, listing the income of the people against it and claiming they're an elite is pretty laughable. In the global scale they earn very nicely. Within the standards of their own country they're doing pretty good (I assume, I can't be bothered to work out what their yank earnings equate to in real money).

    But they're up against someone who could lose their combined yearly earnings (pre-tax) down the side of the sofa and not even notice it's loss without a full forensic audit of his sprawling empire.

    I think the author seriously needs to research his definition of elite. cf Republican party, above. Again, pretty odd seeing them touted as the staunch defenders of the world's poor against the terrible cultural imperialists.

    I'd almost swear the entire article is some sort of prank but it reads as though the author actually believes this shite.

    1. Seajay#

      Re: It's Still Not Free Internet

      No it isn't free internet. So what?

      No Facebook aren't doing it purely from alturism. So what? All companies operate for a profit.

      It is free and useful so why not let people have it if they want it?

  36. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  37. Graham Marsden

    Gift horse...

    ... or Trojan Horse?

    And "Free Basics" sounds so much like Freebasing where, of course, the first hit is free, but then you're hooked and it starts to cost...

    You open the gates, you let them in and suddenly you find that your people are hooked on something which doesn't benefit them so much as it benefits those advertisers and data merchants who are rubbing their hands with glee at the millions of extra sets of eyeballs which are now looking at *their* products and nobody else (not to mention the politicians et al who got tidy "campaign contributions" for their support).

    Meanwhile your local industry finds itself blocked out of its own country because it can't afford to compete with the money that Zuck can throw at this (take a loss for five years simply to bankrupt the competition? No problems...)

    The "racism" and "colonialism" angle is a complete red herring, does it matter *who* tells you the information provided you understand what is going on?

    > ask yourselves whether you really want to go down as the imperialists of the 21st Century.

    Hmm, nice False Analogy...

    PS as for the "Are Indians too stupid...?" headline, I invite readers to familiarise themselves with Betteridge's Law of Headlines"

  38. DocJames
    Flame

    Moderates

    I keep thinking I'm politically centrist, then I read some right wing frothing diatribe such as this. Now I see I'm some kind of goddam commie, like Ronald Regan.

    What worries me more than reading such crap (and comments agreeing with it - democracy, right to free speech etc) is that if I spend too much time on El Reg, less extremist articles will gradually shift my world view until I believe that all corporations are for the best, in this, the best of all possible worlds.

    Off for a beer, to cool the flames -->

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Moderates

      Just read Atlas shrugged again. You'll soon swing to the left.

  39. PAT MCCLUNG

    Don't you see these simple facts?

    Who is this crud apologist for Facebook, and its pathological founder? This is not journalism, this is paid propaganda. This guy is Zuckerberg's flack. Facebook's Indian gambit, is the most colonizing, overbearing freedom take on the planet. Thank God the Indian authorities stopped him. Now, let us all reason how to give Liberty to the 2 billion existing Facebook subscribers, who inadvertently gave it up, not knowing or expecting the consequences. Let us try to lift them out of their dreaded muck-filled silos, one by one, or at least stop them before they reproduce and create more Zombies. No, people, you do not have the freedom to give up your Liberty. You have the responsibility to retain it. You remember, don't you? You read it in grade school.

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

    You may perceive that there is no way to "pursue happiness" unless you have Liberty, which means freeing yourself from Mark "You have one identity." Zuckerberg's identiy-destroying silo, the biggest plague that has threatened to engulf mankind in a long time. This man is really sick, sick, sick, sick, sick. Destroy Facebook and restore human Liberty.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Holmes

    Decision

    Good or Bad, it is the Indian peoples (or their representatives/appropriate Quango) decision for the present - End Of

  41. themoose

    AOL and CompuServe

    When I discovered the Internet, unless you were at university or in the military, you got it via AOL or CompuServe. Demon arrived like a breath of fresh air.

    How is what these companies are doing in India different to AOL and CompuServe circa 1985? There is a lot of Internet out there, it might be a bit scary, have a walled garden to play in till you find your feet.

    AOL and CompuServe came and went and everyone moved on once they clued up.

  42. Seajay#

    Kindle 3G

    I wonder if my Kindle will stop working in India now?

    That gives me free access to the kindle store and nothing else so presumably will fall foul of this law. That would be a damn shame because it's an amazing device which to my astonishment has managed to deliver a newspaper to me on free data access over about 5 years in all sorts of strange countries. God knows how amazon managed to negotiate so many roaming agreements.

    1. marees

      Re: Kindle 3G

      I am amazed, if anybody is getting free Kindle data in India.

      AFAIK, nothing is free in India, including so-called "free internet" which still requires subscription to a monthly plan (> Rs 150 pm I think)

      There is so much cartelisation in India, like Dish channels where I cant add a HD channel, if corresponding SD channel is not part of base package that I have subscribed, so to get the HD channel I want, first I need to buy one of the costliest base packages then on top of that pay additional for HD experience.

      Sometimes I think the regulators go very much under-appreciated and they are a necessary evil. I am not sure what the author is smoking. He normally makes reasonable & logical points.

      1. Seajay#

        Re: Kindle 3G

        Then you are amazed.

        http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OQVZDJM?ref_=kods_xs_dp_oop

        Scroll down to "Check 3G coverage area"

  43. Tikimon Silver badge
    WTF?

    If you disgaree with an ideologue, you're always "misguided" or "misled"

    People drunk on their own ideology never accept that anyone could possibly disagree with their shining vision for the world. This is a prime example.

    It's the same with Communism, Socialism, modern Feminism, etc. If you agree with them, you're an enlightened intellectual with admirable progressive views. If you disagree, you're a misinformed bigot supporting the exploitative entrenched interests yadda yadda yadda.

    India failed to make the ideologically correct choice, so they're lackeys of the elites, of course! They can't possibly have their own good reasons for rejecting Lenin's... ummm, Facebook's glorious future!

    This "we know best and you don't" attitude is what ultimately justifies bloody purges and revolutions. I run like hell from anyone with these attitudes. They scare the hell out of me.

  44. Tom 13

    Not disagreeing with the main thrust of your argument

    But the numbers in those ads look cooked.

    According to the US Census Bureau in 2014 the upper limit on the third bracket was $68,212 which would put the first guy well outside top 11%. Can't tell so much for the second guy. End of the second bracket was $41,186.

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