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Are the one million RCom users on Internet.org first time Internet users?

Internet.org cmn

Telecom operator Reliance Communications has said that it has brought on board one million Indians to experience the Internet via Facebook’s zero rating service Internet.org, as indicated by this Press Trust of India report. However,  the claim might have to be taken with a pinch of salt as it is unclear that the one million users of Internet.org are all first time users.

It’s worth remembering that Facebook back in May had said that Internet.org had 800,000 users in India and that only 20% of those were first time new users. BGR.in had reported that new users are used over 100 mb per month outside of Internet.org, while ET Tech added that 7% of total data usage is on Internet.org.

“We piloted this for six months in seven circles. And in six months, I am happy to share with you, we brought nearly one million people to come on the Internet and experience the Internet,” Reliance Communications’ consumer business CEO Gurdeep Singh told the company shareholders during the annual general meeting.

Facebook has a partnership with Reliance Communications, and the service, available in seven circles (Mumbai, Maharashtra & Goa, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala), is being advertised as “Free Internet”. The partnership was announced in February this year. Facebook has been positioning the service as a philanthropic effort to get one billion Indians connected to the Internet by giving a few essential services for free via the platform.

Earlier in September, Facebook’s Internet.org renamed the zero rating service as Free Basics and updated its terms and conditions. More on that here.

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RCom targeting WhatsApp users for Internet.org

During an analyst call for the quarter June 30, Gurdeep Singh said that the basic objective of their tie-up with Facebook’s internet.org was to bring WhatsApp users to the Internet. “I’m sure you will be shocked to know this that, there is a huge gap between WhatsApp users and actual internet users. So our objective was to bring a bouquet of sites to them, so that they can begin to experience it without paying any data charge,” Singh said.

We’d like to point out that WhatsApp does not function without mobile or broadband internet, meaning that WhatsApp users are actually Internet users. Please note that Internet.org violates Net Neutrality, and Facebook has been running campaigns that suggests to users that free Internet.org means free Internet, which isn’t the case.

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