Microsoft slams Facebook's Free Basics initiative in India

In a rare intervention, Microsoft has jumped right into the Net Neutrality debate in India. Bhaskar Pramanik, the Chairman of Microsoft India said that Facebook's intention may be noble, but to describe Free Basics as compliant with net neutrality is not right. Interestingly, Bing is one of the services which would have been offered free of data charges as part of the initiative.

In a statement to Economic Times, Pramanik said:

"I don't think what Facebook is doing is about net neutrality; it is about helping first-time users get on the Internet and they should call it that. But to muddy it and say that it is also net neutral doesn't make sense."

Pramanik said that Microsoft supports Facebook's intention of making available a set of software and services to every new user of the Internet for free, which will make it easier for them to become regular users of the technology.

"We believe in net neutrality; we believe that the Internet should be free of any constraints ... that was the whole intent of the Internet."

He also emphasized that 'Free Basics' is not completely free. "Somebody is paying for it. And the problem then is that if the operator or a service provider has the right to pay for it, then it limits smaller or any other organization (not part of Free Basics)," he added. He suggested that since operators can't give everything for free, they should charge 'realistic' and affordable rates.

"If they (users) are going to be charged more for a certain set of applications of their choice and directed only to the certain set because the operator says I will give you those for free, then where is there net neutrality?"

Pramanik's remarks come at a time when Facebook has been misleading users in India to sign up in support of Free Basics, and net neutrality advocates have intensified their campaign spreading awareness about net neutrality and pointing out the fallacies in Free Basics initiative. Bhaskar's comments could also spur other industry leaders and startup founders to speak up on the issue.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has set a December 30 deadline to submit comments on the consultation paper on differential pricing for data services, which has reignited the debate on net neutrality.

Source: Economic Times

73 Comments
  • Its great work to jump in by Microsoft .!! Don't know why people don't research it properly before stupidly sending emails to TRAI .!!
  • MS should research properly. The whole point of the internet was to be free of constraints? Really? I thought the internet was designed to be a cold war military network to control infrastructure in the event of nuclear war. When a Russian civilian turned up on it the US military types got well wound up. I don't think they quite intended it as MS seem to believe. I'm not sure MS understand what they are talking about on this point. Sounds like they've been listening to Donald Trump... :)~
  • Wow YOU sound like Donald trump
  • No, he sounds like a clueless person, who tries to show to the internet some "logic" that doesn't exist on 2015... then making him look like another clown on internet, not like Donald Trump.
  • Your logic is so stupid, do you care to apply 1890s thinking in today's world too?!
  • First of all, your whole post is about some insignificant bit of information that one person at MS India said and it has little to do with their actual point on this topic. Secondly, you might want to do your own research about the origins of the Internet. What you are describing is ARPNET, which was the mostly private predecessor to the public internet. It was created by universities in the 60's and didn't get any serious US Government backing until the mid 80's. Even at that point it was mostly being used to provide access to supercomputers for Academia. While the US government did have some interest in the technology for military purposes, that was only part of their interest and the technology was already being developed anyway. The ARPNET research projects were shut down in the 90's as a commercialized version based on ARPNET developed standards was gaining traction and becoming available publically. That commercialized version is what we call the Internet and it is fair to say that that version was created with openness in mind. Therefore, your whole rant about MS not knowing what they are talking about (again, it's a quote from ONE guy) really makes no sense. Facebook needs to be called out on this. The issue isn't that Facebook is providing/promoting "Free Basics". The problem is that they are trying to use the Net Neutrality grass roots movement and concept to promote their product. It is a product after all. While it could be considered a win-win, they aren't doing this solely out of the goodness of their heart any more than Google is when they provide gMail for free. Facebook is trying to actively misinform the public by claiming that Free Basics has something to do with Net Neutrality (it clearly doesn't and could even be considered to violate the spirit of net neutrality), which corrupts and confuses the Net Neutrality movement. MS certainly isn't perfect as a company, but in this case they (that one guy) are on the right side of the issue.
  • Facebook's campaign has been incredibly dishonest in the recent past. Even tricked users unto mailing the telecom regulatory body expressing support for Free Basics under the garb of 'equal access'. Important to call them out. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Facebook has been dishonest n many things.
    Forcing users to use fb messenger
    Stealing videos from u tube to their social network
  • It has simply proved how stupid are indians
  • Maybe you're right. But pls don't generalize all of us. Thank.
  • I'm with you on this. People can never be talked about in general.(nation, race, religion)
    You have to be specific. That's why it's wise to use the words "some, many, most etc".
  • Don't go collectively... Many have brains here...!!!
  • Says the one struggling to write a grammatically correct sentence.
  • I would like you to speak any of the 100 languages in India now...
  • Emjey !!!!u call Indian stupid??? Tell me who is the CEO of Microsoft,Google,Adobe,Softbank internet and media Inc,SanDisk,Nokia(listed only top company)and I will tell you why Indian are STUPID
  • _/\_
  • Well said bro..
  • +Pepsi
  • +people who went on to start Apple, Facebook after visiting India.
  • + landed on MARS with a budget of a simple Hollywood movie
  • Oh boy.. I'm enjoying this moment. ;)
  • Please don't generalize. Thanks!
  • What an A**hole this guy is calling indians stupid
  • Indians? Man, anyone could sign it. In fact, many people all over the world did. There's stupid people, dishonest people, and so on, all over the world, welcome to humanity.
  • Really? Stupidity is a relative term and it's based on ignorance. If this idea is to give people access to vast amount of information then it seems unjust to call the Indian populace "stupid".. Let's try to educate people who are less fortunate than us who can understand and research such a case and viewing via such a medium....
  • *It has simply proved how stupid you are
  • Racist!
  • It's people lke this who give morons a bad name.
  • The net neutrality campaign made a negative publicity of Internet.org. So Facebook cleverly changed its name to Free Basics and thus fooled some people who didn't know that they were the same thing. Its good MS joining the campaign for net neutrality. Even Sundar Pichai supported net neutrality during his visit.
  • Microsoft needs to shut the **** up and sort out their own crap. Till then they have no right to tell others anything !
  • By that logic no one should ever advocate for anything.
  • Your logic is called hypocrisy...all I'm saying is there are plenty of companies who are in a better position to go whine about stuff then microsoft
  • Haha that's the dumbest thing I've heard in a while then why don't you shut up and get your own **** together before you comment about this...cause am pretty sure that we will all agree you are far from perfect and you don't have the right to criticise either by your own logic.
  • I was talking about companies that sell **** thats not finished let alone prefect like the lumia 950 with a broken os. But I agree with you ...if me shutting up means microsoft shutting up and fixing their **** then ill just shut up
  • Did you buy that phone? If no then u should not speak about that MS clearly announced that phone is mostly targeting windows fans. So u should be happy with the hardware because the OS is getting better and better with every update. And btw DID u complain same about iOS 8? That OS was seriously a joke through full update cycle of that version still people bought that disgusting piece giving loads of money.
  • Yes I have the **** lumia 950xl ,great hardware with beautiful but not finished os and no ,no complaints about ios 9 ..was super smooth but windows 10 mobile looks better so I bought the lumia xl
  • How about iOS 9.2 virtually bricking my iPhone 6S?
  • True, I know even huge apple fans who complained about that mess. Good thing iOS 9 is better...
  • Whoa calm down bro, microsoft has way more things to sell than a couple of phones..
  • I am calm believe me ...im justing saying it has so much potential but microsoft messes things up
  • Someone giving a statement, which hardly takes couple of minutes, can't affect the position of a company..
  • Not if he does that on behalf of microsoft ..not saying he did but still
  • You sound messed up too so you should shut up yourself.
  • Thanks for sharing tipsy
  • Lol, ah so true :-)
  • Microsoft- the bug of my life..
  • Not everyone likes a hypocrite. Both are meh lets be honest. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Precisely, I agree with you.
  • I don't care about facebook, and net neutrality I pay for my internet connect and data pack on mobile for some usage units (Gigs) and I don't want anybody to interfere with how i use those. And frankly speaking I use Facebook very very rarely maybe once or twice a week sometimes don't even see for 15days. So I don't support FB when they say free basic follows the conditions of net neutrality and I agree with MS that if Fb Is trying to connect the people who aren't connected till date then they should be honest with the naming free basics means services are free for every one regardless of operator. Which in this case is not followed by FB in India only aircel and reliance customers have access to the service in India. And fb won't give anything more than text which I don't think is better way to connect than VoIP (which is not the past of free basic as this is against the operators conditions).I am against fb until they are free regardless of the operators and e.g. If they give WhatsApp for free they must allow WhatsApp calls for free too....
  • You want net neutrality, then. The idea of net neutrality is that companies like Airtel can't get away with charging more data for services like VoIP calls (they do so very openly). You say you want to be able to use your data allowance as you wish, well believe me, you're being ripped off. Hence, the importance of net neutrality.
  • Good job MS for speaking against the evil Free Basics.
  • We are worried about the future... So we are denying this free basics
  • Nothing is for free, except for the coming soon Windows 10 Mobile but the I need to for data to download! Aah nothing is....
  • Is the Indian government going to give the people free internet access? If not, get out of the way, and let companies help the poor get access.
  • It's about much more than Indian government mate, it's a mess over here.
  • That isn't the issue.  Learn what the issues actually are before you form opinions.
  • Understand the topic before commenting  Jean,  Internet.org are not supplying internet to any far off villagers, they have just partnered with a Big Telecom company/carrier to provide free access to some websites, it is just a facade to get massive population hooked on to their services and websites. It is just a net neutrality violating commercial deal masquerading as social service to fool people in which they failed!!   Facebook wants to be the only internet for new people who come online in India, the "free basics" is just the rebranding of internet.org fraud they pulled last year and got a lot of flak for it, so they put on a new marketing spin on it.
  • Jolly good idea
  • But bing is part of it
  • There is absolutely nothing altruistic about Facebook's intentions. Nor Google's with its free or cheap Internet service they are trying to deploy in less developed countries. Both of these companies are in the business of gathering and selling their users' personal information and Internet usage information. The sooner they can get people roped into their grubby data collecting networks, the more data they can gather on all of these people and the better chance they have to profit from selling their information in the long term. They couldn't give two sh!ts about the actual people, it's all about the data.
  • And I thought it was over months ago....
  • It was.. But this **** is back with some other name to fool people..
  • Good work
  • Hahahaha all you guys arguing instead of wishing a good merry Christmas.
  • Because if some things can't be free, nothing can be. Right?
  • No, because they are trying to leach off the Net Neutrality movement, misinform people, and corrupt the Net Neutrality movement in order to promote their product, which also happens to contrast with the spirit of Net Neutrality in many ways.  They can promote their product all they want, but not in a dishonest way and not in a way that missuses the people's support of a cause.  What Facebook is doing would be similar to the tabaco industry using "lung cancer awareness day" to promote their products or how some companies have latched on to the "cure breast cancer" fad to promote their products while giving nothing to the cause.
  • *all Facebook apps removed from store*
  • ^This lol
  • Crap, does this mean we're not going to get a universal app now? :P
  • Lol
  • First thing I thought lol "Dammit guys, don't get on their bad side"
  • i don't know what the economical situation is in India but if people can't afford data connections free alternatives like this can be a blessing ... the cell carriers in the US have a strong financial influence over the government.  The only way to get "free data" here is certain companies' services don't count against your data plan.  Something "net neutrality nuts" are trying to crap all over ... You still have to pay for having a data connection ... one way or another the cell companies still get your $35 and up a month ... nothing is truley free here.
  • Nice. In germany net neutrality isn't a thing anymore after next January. then we've to pay for inet ussage ( I mean not for the contract. We've to pay above that. There also plans for when you use more then 10 gigs of high speed inet a day that it will slowed down till next day . I hate germany ). **** YOU EUROPE ! **** YOU