By Mahesh Uppal
Should Facebook’s Free Basics initiative be stopped immediately? A response to this question cannot depend on claims, either of its promoter – Facebook – or its critics. And, the issue is not whether Facebook’s goal is to expand internet access to the poor or to further its business. It is whether there is any evidence that Free Basics violates any existing rule, harms consumers or other players in the market. An economic regulator, such as Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will need to settle this, using data and well established tests, not petitions that support or oppose Free Basics.
Yet, several liberals, and even lawyers, want TRAI to do just this. They have pre-judged Free Basics and want it banned simply on suspicion of possible future mischief. They offer no evidence of harm to users or market-players – in India or in any other country where Free Basics is on offer.