Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said 1.35 million responses in support of the plan, or 56 percent of all comments, came from @supportfreebasics.in, according to a report on the agency’sreview of different pricing for data services. It received 544,000 responsesfrom @facebookmail.com, with most backing Facebook’s plan, the regulatorsaid.
Most comments, in support or against differential pricing, are “basically template responses and the contents are identical in nature,” the regulator said Saturday on its website, without saying how the responses will be used in the rate-setting review.
Facebook Chairman Mark Zuckerberg last month made a personalappeal in one of India’s leading newspapers for the country to allow a free Internet service. Facebook’s proposed Free Basicsplan allows customers to access the socialnetwork and other services such as education, health care, and employmentlistings from their phones without a data plan (Free Web in India). Yet activists say the program threatens the principles of net neutrality and could change pricing in India for access to differentwebsites.
The company is spending billions of dollars on Internet.org, including projects to deliver the Web to under-served areas using drones, satellites and lasers. Zuckerberg, the billionaire co-founder, has said the goal is to bring the Internet to the developing world and alleviate poverty, and not to make money for Facebook or its partners.
Save Free Basics In India
To drum up support, Facebook started a “Save Free Basics In India” (Free Web in India) campaign, asking Indian users to support “digital equality” by filling out a form that was sent as an e-mail to regulators. The Menlo Park, California-based company took out full-page advertisements, including one featuring a smiling Indian farmer and his family who the ads say used new techniques to double his crop yield.
Telecom operators including Bharti Airtel Ltd., Vodafone Group Plc’s local unit and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, also support differential data pricing plans.
The regulator said it received 484,000 comments, out of a total of 2.4 million, from forums such as Save the Internet. The regulator set Thursday as the deadline for comments.
Internet & Mobile Association of India and National Association of Software and Services Companies opposed differential pricing, saying it violated “principles of net neutrality,” according to a statement on regulator’s website (Free Web in India) . ~ Neal Bhai Reports