Facebook wants everyone in the world to have access to the internet through their Free Basics program. That is a fantastic goal on a subject (lower income countries getting internet access) that doesn’t get enough attention by the media.
But the Free Basics program is a disaster for everyone except Facebook.
Yes, Facebook is giving data access to many parts of the world where internet accessibility is limited, if not available at all. We shouldn’t brush off this fact. But those who access the internet through this program will only be able to read a very small part it due to the heavy restrictions being put in place by Facebook.
Free Basics customers will only be allowed to see whatever Facebook approves and/or will be forced to use programs that Facebook is involved with such as Messenger, Bing and others. Essentially, Free Basics won’t be giving access to the internet. It will be giving access to Facebook apps and advertising partners. Want to use Twitter? Tough. Imagine a year down the road when Facebook accepts money from new advertising partners and those wanting to access a news site are told that they MUST visit this news site. Want to watch a video? You can only see it at that site.
Of course, Facebook is now backtracking on their restrictions and claims that their program is “open” even though that so-called openness has yet to be tested.
Another thing that bothers people like myself is why Facebook continues to play stupid about the major concerns. When Facebook Free Basics partners do reddit AMA’s and ignore answering major net neutrality questions, it makes people wonder what their motives are. When Facebook continues to claim that they aren’t a “gatekeeper to the Internet” when they are absolutely the definition of a gatekeeper, it makes people wonder why they are being lied to about something that is so very clear.
If you are going to allow for internet access to several advertising sites, own it. Anyone who rationally looks at this plan sees that Facebook is doing this for financial reasons, which is perfectly fine. The advertising dollars in this plan is likely a goldmine for Facebook.