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India blocks Facebook Free Basics internet

  • Published at 01:32 pm February 8th, 2016

India's telecoms regulator has blocked Facebook's Free Basics internet service as part of a ruling in favour of net neutrality.

The scheme offered free access to a limited number of websites.

However, it was opposed by supporters of net neutrality who argued that data providers should not favour some online services over others.

The free content included selected local news and weather forecasts, the BBC, Wikipedia and some health sites.

Facebook has been contacted for comment.

"No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content," ruled the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

The body had been investigating whether any online content should be prioritised over others, or offered for free while others were not.

Vikas Pandey, digital producer for the BBC in India, said there had been an intense publicity campaign on both sides of the debate, with Facebook taking out front page advertising in national newspapers to defend the scheme.

"The people who live in cities and are aggressive users of the internet said: 'You can't dictate the terms, give free internet to villagers and then tell them how to use it'," he said.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has maintained that it is "not sustainable to offer the whole internet for free".

The firm previously said it believed the project, which it launched in 2013 as Internet.org and was offered in 36 countries, has brought more than 15 million people online who would not otherwise have been able to afford access.