Web access shouldn’t be curtailed: Nasscom

KV Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on December 29, 2015

Up in arms A massive campaign launched ‘Say No To Free Basics’” by Swecha Free Software Movement of Indiaagainst Facebook's ‘Free Basics – Online and Offline’, in Hyderabad, on Tuesday MOHAMMED YOUSUF

BVR Mohan Reddy


We are against some sites getting undue advantage over others, says BVR Mohan Reddy

The apex body of IT and BPO industry Nasscom said that it was against any move to scuttle the democratic right to access the internet.

“There can’t be any distinction made. They (those who use the internet through Free Basics) will get access to only certain sites. You are addicted to these sites. Certain sites are more accessible than others. We are against this,” Nasscom Chairman BVR Mohan Reddy told BusinessLine.

“We don’t comment on Free Basics. But what we say is that internet is a democratic right for every citizen in the world. We support that right,” Nasscom Chairman said.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had sought the opinion of the association on the matter a few months ago. “We have said the same to TRAI. We are against some sites getting undue advantage over others,” he said.

Nasscom, however, avoided direct comment on the Free Basics initiative.

TRAI is reported to take a call on the issue in early January. Ahead of the decision, Facebook has gone head with a massive publicity campaign on print, electronic and social media, soliciting support to the Free Basics initiative. Lakhs of people have signed Facebook’s petition to TRAI, in support of the initiative.

In its campaign, Facebook contends that “Free Basics gives people access to vital services, such as communication, healthcare, education, job listings and farming information – all without data charges. It helps those who can’t afford to pay for data, or who need a little help with getting started online. And it’s open to all people, developers and mobile networks.” “However, Free Basics is in danger in India. A small, vocal group of critics are lobbying to have Free Basics banned on the basis of net neutrality,” its online appeal said.

Protests in Hyderabad

However, activists argue that Facebook users have given their consent without being aware of the fine print.

In Hyderabad, hundreds of Free Software Movement of India (FSMI) activists took out a rally and held a dharna at the IT hub of Gachibowli, explaining to passers-by about the “efforts of Facebook to usurp the internet”.

As a follow-up to their protests, FSMI activists have decided to provide free internet to 40 villages, using Freedom Board devices. Costing around ₹20,000, the Freedom Board, developed using open sources tools and software, can provide Internet via Wi-Fi to a village.

FSMI leader Siddhartha told BusinessLine that the activists would go to engineering colleges in the region to acquaint them of the “ill-effects” of Free Basics.

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Published on December 29, 2015
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