Facebook has extended its net neutrality-violating Free Basics service (previously Internet.org) to Reliance Communications subscribers across the country. Internet.org, when it was first launched in February, was available to Reliance Communications’ subscribers in the seven telecom circles of Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Chennai, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
“As of today, everyone in India nationwide can access free internet services for health, education, jobs and communication through Internet.org’s Free Basics app on the Reliance network,” Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted.
Earlier this month, Facebook also announced that Free Basics will be made available in 17 countries in Africa with Bharti Airtel. According to Mark Zuckerberg, half of the 30 countries which have access to Internet.org are in Africa. Facebook and Airtel have partnerships in 6 countries, whereas two countries have the service with a different telecom provider.
Internet.org India head: In India, Facebook is looking for a New Delhi based candidate to head its Internet.org project in India and South Asia, who will be expected to “work closely with policy makers, regulators, industry associations, businesses, civil society and academics across the region”.
One million users: In October, Reliance Communications said that it brought on board one million Indians to experience the Internet via Facebook’s zero rating service Internet.org. 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.
Disclosure: MediaNama has taken a strong stand in favour of Net Neutrality.