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Facebook aiming to bring Free Basics to US

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Facebook aiming to bring Free Basics to US

Facebook is planning on unveiling a US version of its smartphone application that provides free access to a set of online services, according to the Washington Post.

The US version would target low-income and rural Americans, who can’t otherwise afford an internet connection, the newspaper reports. The social network aims to make deals with smaller, lesser-known wireless carriers, rather than big national ones, because of concerns over anti-competitive regulations.

What services would be offered in the US version is unclear at this point, but in other markets where Free Basics is available some typical examples are Wikipedia, Bing Search, weather data, as well as health, education, jobs and communications services. In some markets also news content is included, and based on the Washington Post article, this could well be the case also in the US.

Although being operational in 53 countries, Free Basics has been a subject of controversy in many markets because of its use of zero-rating, which exempts certain types of data from being counted into data caps and which opponents say is in conflict with net neutrality principles.

The most high-profile setback the service faced was in India, where zero-rating was banned over net neutrality concerns. Also the Netherlands has banned the practice.

At the EU-level, the net neutrality guidelines published last month do not explicitly ban zero-rating, but allow national regulators to take a “case by case” approach with such initiatives.

See our Free Basics explainer here.

Zero-rating was discussed in depth at out Global Media Policy Forum – see briefing from the event here.

Author

Teemu Henriksson's picture

Teemu Henriksson

Date

2016-10-07 13:28

Author information

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