Date
24 May 2017
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) meets Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the company's headquarters in California last month. Photo: Reuters
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) meets Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the company's headquarters in California last month. Photo: Reuters

Why Facebook internet push in India faces skepticism

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of bringing the internet to the four billion people who are not yet connected to it, is facing rough sailing in India.

Under Internet.org project, which was introduced in India in February, the world’s largest social network provides free internet access through a stripped-down service that minimizes data usage and cost to participating phone companies. 

The service includes news articles, health and job information, and a text-only version of Facebook.

However, it seems that good intentions and technological savvy are not enough to achieve Zuckerberg’s noble goal, the New York Times said.

In India, for example, people complain that the project is simply meant to get them onto Facebook and sign up for paid plans from Reliance, Facebook’s telco partner in the country.

Such complaints have prompted the Indian government to consider new rules that would govern free internet services, the newspaper said.

Many cellphone users in some of India’s slums have not even heard of Internet.org, but many of them complain about Reliance’s slow data network and poor customer service compared to market leaders Airtel and Vodafone.

But Zuckerberg appears unfazed. Last month, he hosted a live-streamed chat with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, from Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters.

And this week, Zuckerberg will be in New Delhi, where he will take questions from some of Facebook’s 130 million Indian users.

Internet.org, rebranded last month as Free Basics, is now in 25 countries, from Indonesia to Panama.

Facebook is investing heavily in other parts of the project, including experiments to deliver cheap Wi-Fi to remote villages and to beam internet service from high-flying drones, the newspaper said.

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