Disclaimer: This post is more of an personal post than the more ordinary technology news and review-style posts I normally feature but I felt like the more that read this the better.
Is Facebook all of Internet or are there other sites and content that the so-called ‘Free Basics’ are diplomatically hiding from those who are uninformed? My maid’s statement last week alarmed me about the possibility of an something that could treat how the information is spreading as we know it. She was talking about some fair in the neighbourhood and asked me if I could find its location on ‘Facebook’. I immediately corrected her and told her how Facebook is not where you find everything and that there is a medium called the Internet that can play the role of a search engine if you need one. She seemed convinced but there are hundreds and thousands of people who are too poor to not be tempted by this offering of cake instead of the basic bread that they need.
What is the lure that is trapping people?
Internet connectivity for the poor is as tempting as it sounds but is it really all-encompassing? Quite contrary to its claims, it is basically a slightly tweaked version of the internet.org that Facebook had promoted earlier. Personal data is what the internet thrives on and the Silicon Valley is attempting to thrive by monetising on data; using it as a commodity and selling it to advertisers without even paying tax for it.
Those who are financially challenged and are uninformed of the true motives behind this apparent freedom are being lured to believe that Free Basics will provide education, health and other services via Facebook and a few other websites that they feel are all that Internet covers.
If we are really talking about ‘Free Basics” then the proponents should be providing full internet at affordable prices to those who really can’t afford high data charges. Surprisingly, these temptations have been successful in converting 60 million non-Internet users into using smart phones and mobile data. The trick is to truncate Internet services and this itself is being used as a temptation. A delusion is being played out that Internet connectivity will bridge the gap between the digital and non-digital sections of India but in reality that dream is not the goal of the propagators.
How can we really provide free internet?
The real meaning of free internet would be something absolutely different from the distorted version being promoted by Facebook. Cost-effective Internet can be provided to the low-end subscribers. While they do take up data connection, they could be provided with some amount of free data and they can also get some free time slots when network traffic is low. 2G data prices are still sky high for many; these can be reduced for more accessibility. These are some of the basic ways of making Internet available and cost-effective, if not absolutely free.
The high price of data needs to be addressed immediately. Instead of concentrating on free basics that are totally misleading people into anticipating change in their lifestyles, the regulatory bodies should step in to regulate data tariffs. Instead of restricting “Internet” to what it is not, it is time to make “basics” affordable, if not “free”.
Ps. Tell me your option below in the comment. I would love to hear it.