You have seen, heard, and read all about how Mark Zuckerberg is doing everything possible to peddle his Free Basics in India. From full-page ads in the country’s leading daily to writing articles in support of his ware, Mark Zuckerberg is trying to prove that power lies with corporates. He could be wrong if opponents of Free Basics win.
Among those who are fighting for Net Neutrality are some of the most concerned individuals, businessmen, academics and thinkers of the society. One of them is Bloomberg columnist Andy Mukherjee, who wrote a detailed article on what exactly is wrong with Free Basics. Here is a quick read of what he has said based on the fact that the “free” in Free Basics will make users lean more towards Facebook and avoid other paid services even if the latter are better.
“If every telecom company in India gave a free Facebook Messenger option, there’s virtually zero hope for an Indian version of a QQ or WeChat, homegrown Chinese instant messaging services with functionalities that are streets ahead of what Zuckerberg has to offer.”
Take a look at how WeChat has grown. Can any similar Indian service boast of such an achievement even now in a country where Facebook’s WhatsApp has practically a monopoly?
“Facebook says it…is ready to subject its content selection process to third-party scrutiny. But which venture capitalist will even entertain the idea of financing a newer, better mousetrap where existing mousetraps come with free cheese?”
“Even if one believes Zuckerberg to be entirely altruistic in his mission, how does Facebook guarantee good behavior by wireless carriers?”
He writes that a war has broken out in India over 4G services. Did you know that Reliance invested Rs.1 lakh crore or $15 billion into this? If they are spending billions for this business, they’ll obviously try to earn from the content that users access. So Banerjee writes that the competition between service providers will make them own content production companies and force them to protect those by denying consumers access to competitors’ websites and applications.
Why, you ask. Because the stakes are REAL high. Note that only 8 per cent of South Asia’s population is socially active on the Internet.
“Gresham’s law will prevail, and bad content will drive out good.”
Gresham’s law is an economic principle named after Sir Thomas Gresham, the 16th Century British financier who worked under three rulers including Queen Elizabeth I. The law states: “When a government overvalues one type of money and undervalues another, the undervalued money will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, while the overvalued money will flood into circulation.” It is more commonly understood in its shorter version: “Bad money drives out good money”.
You can understand the above from this example:
“Instead of an exciting future, Zuckerberg’s billionth customer in India may be delivered to a wasteland where the only meaningful thing he or she can do for free is to send friend requests.”
You can read Andy Mukherjee’s complete article here.