Facebook pitches Free Basics to the US Government

Written by on October 13, 2016 in Guest Blog with 0 Comments
REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

Facebook Free Basics has already proven divisive, to say the least! Some countries have dropped the service while India banned it completely! Facebook has been talking to White House officials about if when and how they will be able to launch Facebook Free Basics in the US without inviting regulatory complications.

Facebook Free Basics application is a type of a portal that provides access to a variety of websites including Facebook itself and Facebook Messenger. The traffic to this portal does not count against customers’ data caps. Customers don’t even have to have a paid data package; they can be connected just to the Facebook Free Basics portal. For this to happen would Facebook need cooperation and agreement from US mobile operators.

The motivation behind this initiative is getting to the low-income and rural Americans. This target market cannot afford reliable, high-speed internet at home or on their smartphones.

Facebook Free Basics is already available through operators in more than 40 countries, most of which are in Africa. In total, according to Facebook, more than 25 million people are connected and using it. Facebook Free Basics includes a mix of general web browsing and more crucial services like job listings and access to medical information (approximately 80 destinations).

Facebook Free Basics was available in India until their net neutrality rules banned it. In the US Facebook is doing things cautiously they are holding private discussions with government officials in the hopes of avoiding the same fate. The service was actually launched and then banned and became a big disappointment. TRAI- India’s telecom regulator prohibited arrangements that charge different amounts for access to different parts of the Internet.

The big issue with Facebook Free Basics for net neutrality advocates is that the believe internet service providers and operators should not be able to pick and decide which services count against data caps and which don’t.  If operators Zero-Rate certain content it will give an unfair advantage to that content.  At this time, the FCC net neutrality rules do not prevent US carriers from offering exemptions from the data cap.  The four nationwide carriers all offer zero-rated content.  In addition, AT&T and Verizon have sponsored data programs that allow content providers to pay them in order to zero-rate their content to the end customer.

The FCC has been examining zero-rating for a long time now. They are looking to find specific implementations that are interfering with the ability of consumers to reach content or the ability of content providers to reach consumers.  The FCC is not showing any signs that they are going to ban the existing offerings.

Knowing this about the national big carriers, Facebook has been talking with small, regional carriers about offering Facebook Free Basics in the US to their customers.

Furthermore, Facebook has tried to limit criticism of Facebook Free Basics by opening the platform to third-party developers so that all can add their website to Free Basics. Facebook Free Basics has been optimized to work on slow network connections and old phones, so these developers must meet certain guidelines such as not using VoIP, video, file transfer, or photos larger than 200KB. (traffic used is not as heavy).

A Facebook spokesperson said; “While we have nothing to announce, Facebook’s mission is to connect the world and we’re always exploring ways to do that, including in the United States”.

This article was first published on PricingDataPlans.

More on Washingtonpost and Arstechnica

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About the Author

About the Author: Jonathon has been lurking around the Telecoms and Internet space for the last 20 years. He is now a man on a mission – that being the reformation of the Industry Analyst business. He is working with his co-conspirators on transforming the Industry Analyst world forever as an Expert with EMI. .


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