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India's telecom regulator cracks down on Facebook for its Free Basics campaign [pdf] (trai.gov.in)
379 points by spothuga on Jan 19, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 102 comments

Lets get this straight.

1. Facebook made users email the regulator on a subject of "tangential relevance" - saying they support Free Basics, while the questions asked were on Differential Pricing

2. These emails were unsubscribed by TRAI, and 12 MM of those 14 MM emails weren't actually sent - probably because they went out to an empty mailing list.

3. The emails that were sent, were sent by misleading people into "supporting digital equality".

4. Facebook choose to represent and speak for all of the millions that had chosen to "support digital equality" which was questioned by the regulator.

5. Facebook didn't bother to inform the users that originally answered the "opinion poll" of "supporting digital equality" of the questions asked by TRAI even after having been asked to and extending the consultation deadline for the same.

6. Facebook choose to spend $44MM on this campaign in this process. (and an obviously unknown but really large sum for lobbying!)

I'm no policy expert or a strategy consultant, but if there ever has been an epitome for "shooting oneself in the foot", this would be it.

Well said. Completely agree with all points except for the conclusion "shooting oneself in the foot". $44MM is chump change for Facebook. They'll happily spend much more if there's a small chance of becoming a gatekeeper. They'll buy, bully, slander those who are protesting against free basics. I doubt they'll back down easily.

Yea, I see that. If you and I can afford to buy a bad shoes once in a while, I'm sure FB (Market Cap $300B) can afford to spend $44MM for a small chance to be a gatekeeper.

But it seems to be that the result of this campaign has been a tremendous net negative, given how badly it fared as mentioned in the points above, but mostly also in the public perception. Is there anything called anti-marketing?

>Is there anything called anti-marketing?

I like to think of it simply as negative PR(Public Relations).

I think Facebook chose this type of campaign after seeing how http://savetheinternet.in rallied support for pro-net neutrality responses to an earlier consultation paper, from an uncommonly broad audience for a telecom policy issue.

The Save The Internet campaign (both then and this time) had some important differences though: their default template actually answered the questions the regulator asked, and each email was sent from the respondent's own email app (using mailto or the equivalent) instead of being sent by the platform.

Don't forget: SaveTheInternet actually TOLD people that they are sending emails to TRAI. Facebook did not even do that! Which is why the Advertising Standards Council is investigating FB's campaign.

Yeah, but this campaign never tricked people into sign anything. People who signed this petition actually knew what they were signing. The Facebook campaign was based on deception, pure and simple.

But Zuckerborg is a genius, how dare to question his competence at executing this brilliant campaign.

Any run of the mill MBA would've told you just sell free facebook for the masses. But no instead it had to be a massive moral cause of digital rights for the poor. Because I guess they were suppose to be as easy as Americans and I guess pretty much rest of the world to dupe into selling themselves to facebook.

I see traces of Uber in the way Facebook dealt with this whole thing. Are the CEOs of top companies in SV forming a secret alliance or something?

Harshest sentence: "your urging has the flavor of reducing this meaningful consultative exercise designed to produce informed decisions in a transparent manner into a crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll."

Haha awesome. Somebody put it on a plaque and mail it to mr. zuckerberg.

If you want something done right, do it yourself.

I am loving the Net-neutrality activism in India, from a wide bunch of folks: Startup folks (HNers & the likes of Mahesh Murthy); OSS folks (likes of HasGeek/Kiran Jonalagadda);even the entertainment industry(AIB, Vishal Dadlani etc)...so for the third time now, the message has been driven across that, we are not sheep. You can fool the over-eager politicians, in their willingness to be seen as tech-savvy (even tech visionaries!), by just being overly pleased to have photo-ops with FB founders and the likes. But not everyone.

Thankfully, there is enough critical base of skepticism, over here. These kind of days, make me really proud as an Indian Internet user.

PS: On another note, welcome the entry of Netflix. Already became a member and enjoying it. I hope they remain very-very careful of not disturbing the sacred net-neutrality waters.

So Facebook complained that its emails were blocked?

There is some really, really delicious irony in that complaint... perhaps if Facebook paid for higher priority mail delivery, their emails would deliver. :)

I've always found these "email your congressmen!" campaigns to be largely ineffective and even counterproductive. The FCC opened net neutrality for public comment and received a similar response, i.e. hundreds of thousands of form emails sent to them. The emails bury any signal under gigabytes of noise. The only result is that regulators will ignore all emails, not just the form letters. The form letters are basically a regulatory DDOS campaign.

Add to that the fact that the campaigns are orchestrated by large players in tech, e.g. Facebook, and they lose all credibility. A megaphone and an agenda should not be sufficient tools to subvert public discourse.

> So Facebook complained that its emails were blocked?

Even better: Facebook complained that Facebook's email infrastructure blocked Facebook from sending further email from Facebook's campaign, and Facebook failed to notice that Facebook's email infrastructure was doing this, so TRAI is now responsible.

A megaphone and an agenda should not be sufficient tools to subvert public discourse.

I agree with you, but how do you fix this? Media companies have the biggest megaphones of them all, and their agenda is keeping those megaphones.

> The emails bury any signal under gigabytes of noise.

I would hope they could be deduped (and perhaps counted), at least after receiving.

You are asking the congressmen themselves to do deduplication and counting. Not hard to see how that would fare.

Or to have people to handle that kind of thing for them. Preferably using software to automate the process.

You can't astro-turf a groundswell - I think that's the whole reason TRAI is ticked off.

I applaud them catching onto this, because that the indian "license raj" has its downsides as well as upsides. This the first time I'm seeing the regulatory powers actively fighting the "the first hit is free" tactic.

The ideal approach would be to meter it as usage and freebasics getting a fixed bandwidth fraction until the pricing kicks in.

Also, it helped that the non-FB movement explained things better - the AIB ads to save the internet[1] were hilarious.

[1] - http://indianexpress.com/article/technology/tech-news-techno...

The hardest part is that, there are Indian minds at Facebook designing these schemes for India. Such a shame on them.

That's not very strange. In every country there are people working for their own benefit against the good of the nation. It's called the tragedy of the commons.

This kind of thing is actually all too common in the United States. One (rather shocking) example of this is/was the promotion of Oxycodone, a drug derived from Opium to doctors all over the US for common cases of pain.[1] Purdue Pharma spent millions promoting the use of Oxycodone for minor cases of pain, and misrepresenting its addictiveness. This has more or less been responsible for the heroin epidemic in the US, with the consequence being thousands upon thousands of lives being destroyed (first through addiction, and then by death).

And I might be wrong here, but in my experience, the vast majority Americans actually care a lot lot more about the common good than Indians. In my experience, a lot of Indians (in India) will happily screw over their neighbors and their country for their own selfish gain. Conscientious Indians are hard to come by. The few who stand up for what is right, get killed[2] or trampled over[3].

One glaring example of this is how people in India have no problems trashing the streets of the very cities/towns they live in. The streets of most major cities in India look like steaminggarbage dumps. I suppose they think: "What do I care? It's public property, not my home." And they litter the streets with garbage.

If a country like the United States, where the majority people are actually a lot more conscientious, moral, and patriotic[4] than most countries has problems of a few screwing over the majority, then there's nothing shocked about.

[1] http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/10/the-new-he...

[2] Satyendra Dubey: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyendra_Dubey

[3] One of my relatives worked for an Indian government agency. He wouldn't stand for any corruption, and fought against from the inside. The people in the agency literally ruined his life. He even sued some of these people, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court of India, and he actually won the case -- but the compensation he won for all that he had went through was a pittance. He ended up dying in his early 50s from a heart attack, most likely from the stress from all of this. His entire life was consumed by this.

The level of corruption in government in India is staggering. From the highest to the lowest levels of government, everyone cares just about themselves (and their families) and is a Judas to everyone else, their neighbors, and the nation as a whole. It is very sad.

[4] Being patriotic should mean actually caring about the country and people in the country -- that manifests itself in the person's behavior. Not empty words. By this measure, a lot of Indians living in India are some of the least patriotic people in the world.

Your comment is just full of wild generalizations and prejudice. It has absolutely no basis at all - there is no emperical evidence that India is any more corrupt than any country with a similar per-capita - on the contrary there is evidence to believe that India is a lot less corrupt than a lot of other countries with a much higher per-capita (China).

The examples that you mentioned are picked out to just confirm your bias, lack of understanding and maybe a personal inferiority complex - the narrative can be constructed for any country on the planet by picking out facts.

The Indian grandfather who was paralyzed recently in the US - the police officer has been acquited - does that mean that the US police force is incompetent or the jury racist. Going by your arguments its both - and most conscientious Americans havent dont anything to fix it.

Indians (in India) will happily screw over their neighbours - but Indians in America won't ? Is it because they administer a special serum when you take the long flight which makes them conscientious or is it just a convenient argument.

The squalor in India's cities has nothing to do with being conscientious - it is simply because most Indian cities have one of the lowest per-capita civic spends in the world (because of extreme poverty) and lack of autonomous municipal govts.

I doubt China is as (or more) corrupt than India. There is ton of corruption in China, yes, but the people at the top do seem to care about China doing well economically, and about improving the living standards of the people in their country. Could you say that's true for India?

I'm speaking from experience, and based on what I've seen. In statistics, you don't survey the entire population, but rather you take a small sample. I think I've a statistically significant sampling of experiences.

The police-related issues in the US is a serious threat to personal liberty, and there are a lot of people fighting for it to be corrected. You are entirely wrong when you say "and most conscientious Americans havent dont anything to fix it" -- the people have responded overwhelmingly, and there is huge push and fight underway to correct the moral/social injustice. Just read the news.

I said "Indians (in India)" because, yes, there is a difference. If you surround yourself Americans, and spend time with them on a regular basis, you will naturally, over the course of time become more like them. If you always stick around other Indians, then you will not change. I've had bad experiences with non-family Indian people. Various Indian friends I've had at various points in my life have screwed me over / been a bad friend to me at a much higher frequency than my American friends. These days, I keep people who are too Indian (culturally / identity-wise) at an arm's distance, and avoid getting too close to them.

I've just had really lopsided experiences. The majority of my American friends have been genuinely been friends. In times of trouble, they've sincerely empathized and actually tried to help. A bunch of Indian "friends" I had in the past, would laugh when I got into unfortunate circumstances, and they certainly would not try to help. There are good and bad people on both sides, but the majority of Americans I've come in contact with, have been a much better people, character-wise.

Regarding the squalor, your "poverty" argument is cop-out. Cities like Bangalore, which are filled with tech companies, still look like steaming garbage dumps. Why? Because the people don't care. The cost to clean up the city, and keep it clean on a regular basis, would be tiny. Simply collecting 50 rupees per month from the residents of Bangalore who make above a certain wage, would be, by far, sufficient to make the city speck and clean. What makes me irate is total apathy of the majority of these people about the cleanliness of the public spaces of the cities they live in. I've seen people in nice cars, open their window, and toss garbage onto the sidewalks/streets. It's pathetic and disgusting. It tells something about their character/culture.

On second thought, I take my words back. I need to reflect a bit more on this.

I don't think it's right to base my opinion on these certain limited things.

I understand where all this is coming from, and I can share very detailed counter points to each of your claims but maybe you are getting there yourself.

You are taking a purely 'Etic' view of things and supplementing with an 'Emic' view typically gives a better perspective. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emic_and_etic

Overall I agree with your point but I want to make a squabble with your example.

Purdue's marketing of Oxycontin definitely crossed my line of honesty, BUT there has been, historically, an enormous amount of untreated pain in the US (probably everywhere), because of the stigma around those drugs.

It's ok for someone to develop a tolerance and addiction to the drug if they have the actual pain issue. That is usually less disruptive to someone's life than living with crippling pain. In a way, getting opiate pain medication into the hands of more people is a good thing.

The problem was a little more complicated- 1) Perdue promoted Oxycontin in a misleading way. 2) This happened during an economic downturn with our post-manufacturing economy turning out tons of people on disability, and others without a clear future. 3) Legislators freaked out, making it harder for doctors to prescribe opiates without making it easier for them to prescribe opiate treatment pills like suboxone, which basically forces addicted users of pharmaceuticals onto the street to score heroin.

So it's a social, legislative, and corporate morality problem all at the same time.

It's rare to come across such an earnest belief in American exceptionalism these days. Do you have any sources for any of your positive assertions about the average American, or is it mainly personal experience/observed/anecdotal?

I'm speaking mostly based on what I've seen and hat I've experienced.

In statistics, you don't survey the entire population, but rather you take a small sample -- and I think I've had a statistically significant sampling of experiences.

I take strong exception to your extreme interpolation. You found 3 anecdotes in a country of 1.25 billion people and branded them the least patriotic bunch? I actually live here and it's far from the truth. Can you name any other country where the people fasted and rid it of foreign dependency on food imports by one call of their prime minister? This is just one example, please research/understand countries/people before making such bigoted (Americans are much more patriotic) statements.

"Bigoted" is an unnecessarily strong and insulting word to apply. The GP sounds like he is of Indian descent and unsatisfied with the way things are in his family's country of origin, which is anyone's right.

I only disagreed with his claim "Indians are least patriotic, Americans are more patriotic". I didn't say anything about the rest of the comment. I wrote a strong word because the claim was extraordinary.

> If a country like the United States, where the majority people are actually a lot more conscientious, moral, and patriotic[4] than most countries


Hate me all you want, but I think poor Indians would be better off with Free Basics.

I also don't believe in net neutrality. I believe carriers should be able to discriminate data based on economic value of the data.

If we ever desire to see real usages of the Internet(that is more than just information exchange medium) which requires real time data transfer (for instance remote surgeries, remote operation of machines by a human operator, etc etc), then that would require to get rid of net neutrality.

If we ever desire to see real usages of the Internet(that is more than just information exchange medium) which requires real time data transfer (for instance remote surgeries, remote operation of machines by a human operator, etc etc), then that would require to get rid of net neutrality.

I just don't see how this can be the case. Show me your evidence that some data is causing real time data transfers to slow?

You are confusing QoS with differential pricing for content. The same kind of content should be priced the same regardless of the domain serving them.

In retrospect I shouldn't have used the phrase 'QoS', I now realize that QoS means something very specific. By my argument is for differential pricing. The service provided to higher priced content is prioritization of data.

Real time data needs reliable and fast ping rate. This isn't dictated by the bandwidth, rather by the speed of the network devices. One way to achieve that is introduction of QoS, the network devices prioritize some data over the other.

If you want to observe this effect then try turning QoS on or off on your router during your wife's Netflix session while you're playing a multi-player RPG.

QoS is not the technology used for hospitals, banks, airports, stock brokers and similar industries which need fast ping and guarantied network delivery. They use dedicated bandwidth, where QoS is used to alleviate issues resulting from congestion on shared networks.

Dedicated bandwidth is also what pays for new cables being placed between nations or continents. A new cable can often promise a small improvement in latency compared to the existing ones, which for a stock broker means a major advantage over competitors who use the old ones. The highest paying customers moves to the new one, which result in space being made available in the old cables, which tickles down to lower paying customers until its no longer worth selling dedicated bandwidth (which is normally in the from of separate wavelengths), which at that point it get used by multiple customers at the same time and people start to talk about QoS to artificially increase the number of possible customers on the same available bandwidth.

QoS is about selling bandwidth so it can pass over 100% usage. Dedicated bandwidth is about reliable network with fast latency. QoS is a way to increase the revenue of old cables and increase their lifetime. Dedicated bandwidth is what pays for new cables being placed in the ground or on the bottom of the sea.

Most games I play have pretty steady ping. I am doubtful QoS would decrease ping a lot.

> If you want to observe this effect then try turning QoS on or off on your router during your wife's Netflix session while you're playing a multi-player RPG.

That's because the network is congested and Netflix keeps trying to push as many packets as possible, hence your game packets may not reach on time. But, placing a simple bandwidth limit on other devices is enough to ensure proper ping for your game.

QoS only helps if the network is congested.

Net neutrality does not preclude QoS.

QoS is very, very silly approach to guarantee that a real-time deadline can be met. Over a conventional Ethernet, you can only achieve soft real-time (i.e. video streaming). For hard real-time (when people can literally die if the packet was not delivered in x ms) you need a protocol that has formally proven to have certain characteristics (like EtherCAT).

Are you saying that users of realtime applications should be subsidized by all other internet users?

No, they should (and will) pay for themselves. On the other hand they will subsidize the rest of us. Kinda like how first class subsidizes the economy class. We let them board first, but our ticket becomes cheaper because of that.

>>first class subsidizes the economy class. We let them >>board first, but our ticket becomes cheaper because of >>that.

You mean, like governments in capitalistic nations like the US running at the mercy of some say a 100 billionaires. I don't believe that is a viable model to follow in a egalitarian society of the internet. Currently, internet is the best example to prove in a different sense that anarchists (virtual)society can survive, lead and guide people to their goals. When people try to build establishment on top of this, thing take a different route altogether.

Internet is like Marx's virtual economy ;)

ISTM the ratios involved are very different. Even a first class air passenger with fifty kilos of baggage only takes up slightly more space and weight than an economy air passenger. Since they might be paying five or more times as much, the service makes sense for airlines. The realtime network you envision is already available to users willing to buy e.g. dark fiber, for less of a premium (relative to bandwidth) than that. If that doesn't work for you, why not?

Yes we know that big ISPs regularly raise examples like this as a reason why they shouldn't have to provide neutral service, but that is manifestly self-serving on their part.

Nothing in net neutrality prevents you from buying a faster pipe where the provider guarantees priority for your packets using QoS or whatever they please.

Net neutrality only prevents your provider from making this decision on your behalf.

So either I upgrade my whole pipeline, or live with a slower pipeline?

I currently run Samsung's Smartthings hub at home(and I love it), I would like the video feed and other notifications be available to me at real time speeds (don't ask why), you're suggesting that I upgrade my whole line for that?

Wouldn't it be preferable that when I use Netflix, the video goes on a deprioritized network, and when I use Skype, it goes on priority network without me having to upgrade the whole service.

The point is, from the consumer's point of view, the services he uses are a mixed bag of priority vs non-priority data. On the other hand, from the content provider's POV, the services they use are either priority, or non-priority (or a mixture, for instance paid subscribers are run through a faster network, etc etc).

Net Neutrality prevents that, not because the conversations I am having in this thread with people is what happens in every NN debate.

> If we ever desire to see real usages of the Internet(that is more than just information exchange medium)

We don't, or rather we see any and all "real usages" of the Internet to be that of (agnostic) information exchange, at their core.

> which requires real time data transfer (for instance remote surgeries, remote operation of machines by a human operator, etc etc), then that would require to get rid of net neutrality.

If you need truly real time behavior like this, then the Internet is not suited for your purposes, Net Neutrality or not.

Wouldn't it be more preferable to build a neutral layer on the top of a non-neutral network, only aimed at information exchange?

I mean what's more preferable/useful, a network where moderation is made illegal on all sites or a network where various sites moderation is based on a site's values and nature, and 4chan being one such (relatively) moderation free site?

> Wouldn't it be more preferable to build a neutral layer on the top of a non-neutral network...?

How do you propose doing that?

> which requires real time data transfer (for instance remote surgeries, remote operation of machines by a human operator, etc etc)

And when a backhoe destroys a fiber line...? Or copper thieves steal cables? Or when an anchor destroys connectivity to yet another country? Datacenter fire takes out the router? AC failure overheats the router? Cosmic ray flips bits? Electrician doing a backup generator / UPS battery upgrade flips the wrong breaker? China posts a bad BGP route? Michael Jackson dies again? Amazon S3 goes down again? Landslides take out cables after earthquake? Windstorm?

How many of these scenarios is traffic shaping really going to fix? Not enough to be the camel-breaking straw, IMO. Even the U.S. power grid isn't reliable enough for this kind of thing - e.g. hospitals roll their own generators as a result.

As for remote operation - it's already happening with mining trucks, via failsafe robotics (which don't require real time data transfer) and dedicated networks (which can be properly secured against single failure points, and be kept small and separate enough to control and mitigate some of those concerns.)

You really deserve the downvote, mate.

Great, just letting you know it is a fight you cannot win in real life.

I understand that people on HN (and those who support Net Neutrality) have good intentions, unfortunately what they are trying to do is step between two private entities (network providers and data providers) whose business dealings are just (as much as UPS's priority shipping to those who want to pay for it is just).

The fact is, people need to stop and think. Things aren't what they seem to be. The whole Net Neutrality movement has become an echo chamber (to which you contribute by down voting). All this does is piss people off in real life when they see that they are on a losing side of things.

Right now the market thinks that profit can be made by getting rid of Net Neutrality. Once it starts to think that current Internet infrastructure cannot get rid of NN(Say some sort of law is passed), then that means more profitable venture would be a new network which can avoid the regulatory restriction of net neutrality.

Free Basics - Facebook claims that any company or service provider can join this and if that is the case why don't they give the power to India's people to decide who can or cannot join. As of now Facebook has the final word in rejecting or accepting your application which is just wrong. They can easily funnel in USA companies (or Facebook invested startups) in India which compete against Indian companies. This is a nasty move by Facebook so they can dominate the world's biggest open market (world 17% population).

One more thing to add if Facebook loves honors net neutrality in USA, why are they hellbent on breaking it in other countries.

I doubt Facebook is a patriotic company. If Indian companies will further their agenda, they will probably funnel those companies.

Here is the Facebook's letter to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that garnered this response.


Here are earlier communications between TRAI and Facebook


If you zoom into that blacked out dropbox URL in the PDF, you can still see the characters... yikes.

Poor redaction aside (most of it is fairly clear at the default size the PDF loaded on my system), why would Facebook host the list of commenters (13.5M people, according to Facebook) and comments on Dropbox? I'd've thought they would host it on their own infrastructure.

There is no contact information in those files (there's a bunch of them). Just a date, name and (template) comment. Mostly pointless.

Earth to Facebook: astroturfing entirely sucks, it was a very 90s tactic and it's an absolutely shit way of convincing anyone of anything.

Frankly, you look like you are bullies, and you've pissed off a lot of people by absolutely misleading them into signing your petition, to the point where you actually tricked many folks directly.

There are many, many people who distrust Facebook. I used to be on the fence, but now I see just what Facebook is like, I have to work out if I'm going to continue with an account. Frankly, it would be great if Facebook would wither and die on the vine (IMO, of course!) and a more ethical social media platform takes over. I can but live in hope.

Every time I read another article on this, it makes me more skeptical about Zuckerberg's for-profit "charity".

You should be skeptical. It's a private charity, which is another way of saying Zucketbergs control it. So it was just a way for them to avoid taxation.

The most awful part about it though was the way they spun it into a PR campaign by involving their daughter in the whole story.

What Zuckerberg said was that the new company is a LLC company which they will be liable to pay taxes. However, the company is controlled by the couples.

Disappointing part was the role played by the media singing "All hail Zuck" misleading people saying he is "donating" to "charity"

That was something uncalled for. Indians may be backward in many things. This kind of PR is not going to be enough to fool average educated Indians.

The funny (or unfortunate, if you're FB) component is that if the FB form response in favor of Free Basics had been written more elegantly, TRAI might have considered it to be responsive. The TRAI invitation to comment was winsomely written. It included the following as the final question:

Are there alternative methods/technologies/business models, other than differentiated tariff plans, available to achieve the objective of providing free internet access to the consumers? If yes, please suggest/describe these methods/technologies/business models. Also, describe the potential benefits and disadvantages associated with such methods/technologies/business models?

A rather nice invitation for people who actually did want to write in in support of Free Basics.

The address from where FB is operating is the Taj Mahal hotel in New Delhi where the lowest room rent is approximately 450 USD per night. Quite interesting!

And this person has two suites at their disposal. A professional lobbyist, I suppose.

Said person is an FB employee and director of public policy for India and the region. I guess she and her staff are the only people working out of Delhi, so they took a hotel room. FB's India HQ is down south in Hyderabad.

What does that have to do with any of this?

Pointing out the expenses fb is ready to take. (450 per night is pennies to them but still. A non profit charity tries to divert all money on actual cause. )

Meanwhile in US big ISPs erode net neutrality with caps and exemptions while FCC is doing nothing.

Ironically, the ISPs in the USA are doing this at the same time ISPs in other countries where caps and exemptions have been the standard are becoming more free and open.

About 5-10 years ago, most ISPs in New Zealand didn't offer an unlimited option, or if it was, it wasn't the standard and cost a lot more. Plans started at about 20 GB (or lower, depending on how far back you go) and went up from there. There was also unmetered data (usually to servers hosted by the ISP, very useful for Counter Strike).

Now I think that all ISPs offer an unlimited plan, which is usually about $15 or so more than the capped plan, and capped plans usually offer about 60 GB as the base amount, which is fine for a lot of light users, who only check their email and read the news.

Contract free ISPs are also becoming a lot more common, where you don't have a fixed term contract, and instead just pay monthly.

Another nice thing is that fibre installation is free, as it's paid for by the government. The NZ government is doing a great job of getting New Zealand world class internet, we just need more overseas cables now (ones that the NSA hasn't literally tapped into would be nice too, our main cable literally goes through an airbase).

The one thing that everyone looks over is the fact that Facebook wants everyone to use their product (both rich and poor). I don't think Free Basics has much to do with Net Neutrality since they lobbied against it in the US.

Some of the arguments their sales rep puts up when you go to them to place an ad: 1. We display ads even if the user does not have a need. 2. The standard "Everyone is on facebook" which is not quite true in India.

I eventually stuck with google because I didn't feel my product which is targeted at farmers would be useful enough on facebook. This whole bullsh!t campaign is to get all indians on facebook so they can convince advertisers to sell ads exclusively on FB.

PS: freebasics may be an ad free platform but facebook on freebasics will definitely not be ad free.

Facebook has been using so many tricks used by politicians these days that they might as well register as a political party in India :)

Facebook tried to game the "Invited comments" system in an amateurish way and got spanked. GOOD!

But this should not distract from the fact the there needs to be a substantive debate about the merits/otherwise of their Free Basics initiative.

In a country like India where millions of people have ZERO access to the full internet, any effort that provides ANY access - however limited and curated - should not the shouted down by a vocal subgroup.

If after a meaningful debate the conclusion is that it is better to hope for eventual full access with zero current access(!) rather than instant limited access then so be it, but Facebook is not helping its cause with these stupid shenanigans.

I do think that any attempt to provide access which is limited & curated should be shouted down , because it is totally disastrous in the long term. There are other business models which are currently in play , which can be considered, such as

- Aircel has free access at a speed of 64kbps (very slow) but still the user has access to the entirety of the internet , not a walled garden.

- There is a different model, where user view an ad on a per day basis and get a certain data limit in return. Mozilla has implemented this. This gives access to entirety of the internet.

Man, I remember when 33.6kbps was perfectly acceptable for participating in sites like Slashdot.

I bet websites could provide appropriately low-bandwidth versions more easily than they could be vetted by Facebook's walled garden.

yep. Most of the sites are heavy because of tracking & user analytics part of which make make a huge chunk of the data download( pixel tracking , etc.)

Facebook claims 11 million supporters. The "vocal subgroup" at SaveTheInternet has only 400k. Who's shouting down whom?

FB PR needs work. But I support a free and optional pared down internet.

as somebody who hasn't been following this at all, can someone please explain all of the hostility toward fb? I get that what fb is offering is far from ideal, but isn't it slightly better than the status quo of no internet for a large amount of people? and as Facebook is a business, not a charity, shouldn't they be able to recoup money on their investment? I imagine giving free internet access, albeit limited, to the world's soon to be largest population doesn't come cheap

Facebook isn't paying for any of it (apart from the developer screening process and proxy server). They expect their telco partners to bear the expenses, who naturally have no expectation of recovering it from the poor who can't afford to pay, and so don't bother to market the service to them. The telcos market "Free Internet" (and after some backlash "Free Facebook") to urban youth to lure them away from other telcos. FB's own data says 80% of users are switchers, not the newly connected.

Facebook's stated intent is one thing, what's actually happening on the ground is something else.

So rewarding to see the epic paternalism from FB smacked down to size.

I am very worried about Facebook's behavior.

The history of the Indian NN battle has been-

1) old TRAI head releases an implicitly anti neutrality set of consultation questions, very close to the end of the consultation period. (The underlying plan was to have the new rules passed without scrutiny, and the new head of the regulator would assume office in a month or two. All decisions would be blamed on the old head - SOP)

2) Nikhil Pahwa among many other individuals, including people on Reddit india start being vocal about it, (including an MP who brings it up in parliament)

3) these individuals coalesce into a rough group and using Twitter and in particular AIB's you tube video (Indian comedy group), get the message out. Millions of emails specifically answering the questions get sent to the regulator

4) what was assumed to be a slam dunk for telcos, turns into an actual consultation process, especially with the arrival of the new TRAI head.

5) committee is formed and consultation paper answers/counter comments are being taken into consideration for policy


Now comes a new paper - months after the previous NN movement. The topic is on differential pricing.

This time Facebook learns from the NN movement and opens with a rebranded Internet.org. Freebasics

Freebasics ostensibly is using the Facebook network to promote itself. Practically it's the same as Facebook using its network to promote a policy which it thinks is good for its users.

FBasics follows a huge online campaign with a marketing blitzkreig. (Not even kidding. There were more ads for Facebook than there were for popular movies at the time. Multiple hoardings and news paper ads)

In essence, Facebook learnt from the NN movement, and tried to create the same basic groundswell of support for its plans. It included utterly unethical onlir surveys which essentially asked "do you agree with saving people: yes/maybe later".

In sharp contrast - while FB Started strong, the save the Internet coalition had to do a cold start - they were/are never meant/intend to be a permanent NGO/movement. Nor are any members activists or professionals lobbyists.

So they didn't have things like opt in mailing lists to reach out for people. Nor had they anticipated the need to ask people if they could be contacted for future updates or requests.

Still, people once again coordinated, got the work done and got the message out - but a much smaller number than before (more arcane discussion topic than NN) and far less than Facebook managed to pump out.


The ability of Freebasics to leverage Facebook is hugely worrisome.

If it were not for a technicality - that some marketing honcho misunderstood the actual message that had to be sent - all of those messages sent to TRAI would be considered valid, and TRAI would have taken it into account.

A TRAI functionary said it directly day before yesterday - TRAI regrets that Facebook handled the issue the way it did because it was a great opportunity for people to let TRAI know what they really wanted. There's a sense of regret and disappointment at the regulator.

Facebook, learns. As will anyone who paid attention to this.

The next time Facebook, or reliance need to have hell with a consultation paper, and it moves into the theater of public opinion - they will act correctly.

They will answer the correct questions. They will message more people. They will improve.

In contrast, the volunteers who decided to take this issue up, won't exist for other issues or have the necessary ability and man power to match the big players.

This isn't a win. It's a warning.


Note/ Details have been subsumed into larger points, so specific dates and sequences may be out of order (such as conversion of Internet.org to FBasics)

Which is why we the volunteers have figured we need to be better prepared for Act 3. Stay tuned.

I noticed. Sup.


Attacking an entire population like that breaks the HN guidelines, which call for civil discourse. Please don't do this.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10932362 and marked it off-topic.

Im not attacking entire population, Im stating a fact. I understand SJW etc, but please do talk to someone actually living in India.

This is the typical comment where preconceptions are so strong that they ignore, and even go literally against, the evidence at hand. In this case, the news is precisely about the Indian regulator standing against the wealthy lobbyist (who happens to be an American company, by the way). Talking about how corrupt countries are, or how corrupt they are perceived to be, I wonder if the same result would take place in the US.

It's really a form of fingers-in-ears hear-no-evil self-deception. That is, USA is certainly corrupt (e.g. access to US Senators is more dependent on donations than state of residence), but in different ways than other nations. So the typical maneuver is to say "look at what's going on over there: it's corrupt and we don't have it here so thank goodness we aren't corrupt". Situations like this lead the typical maneuver astray because as you say this particular corruption didn't fly in India while it happens many times a year here in USA.

Like announcing switch to Linux in order to get better deal during Microsoft subscription renegotiation?

That is not corruption, just smart negotiation

Couldn't agree more.

But it didn't so far. Its better to support public officials that are actually working towards public good than being negative for reasons having nothing to do with whats being discussed.

I am loving this! Smacked hard and flat in the face!

This is epic..fb is turning evil.

Turning? at what point of time in their entirety have they not.

...turning? :) or have turned!

Can you identify any time in the past when FB's cumulative contributions would have not been considered evil?

Meanwhile, Verizon and T-Mobile seem to be walking all over the "strong net neutrality" rules the FCC passed.


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