- By Stephanie Mlot
- February 11, 2016 10:30am EST
Meanwhile, Facebook board member Marc Andreessen is in hot water after some offensive comments about India.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday ruled that apps like Free Basics violate net neutrality, so service providers have been prohibited from offering them.
Facebook declined to comment further to PCMag, reiterating the comment it shared earlier this week. “Our goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, non-exclusive and free platform,” it said. “While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the internet and the opportunities it brings.”
The controversy, meanwhile, made headlines in Silicon Valley when Facebook board member Marc Andreessen posted a tweet that suggested India was better when it was under the control of other countries. “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?” he said in the since-deleted tweet.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg was quick to respond, announcing publicly that he found Andreessen’s comments “deeply upsetting,” and ensuring that they “do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all.”
“India has been personally important to me and Facebook,” Zuck said. “As our community in India has grown, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the need to understand India’s history and culture. I’ve been inspired by how much progress India has made in building a strong nation and the largest democracy in the world, and I look forward to strengthening my connection to the country.”
Andreessen later apologized “for any offense caused” his comments caused.
“To be clear, I am 100 percent opposed to colonialism, and 100 percent in favor of independence and freedom, in every country, including India,” he wrote in a Thursday tweet.
Zuckerberg announced in 2013 that he wanted to connect “the next 5 billion people”—a promise that developed into Free Basics (then called Internet.org), which provides people with cheap smartphones and access to specific services that don’t eat into monthly data usage. The app launched in early 2015 in six Indian states with more than three dozen Web services.
Officials, however, complained that Facebook was favoring its partners—a violation of net neutrality. Rather than providing users with access to the entire Web and letting them pick and choose their services, Free Basics offered prioritized access to specific apps that would likely benefit from an influx of new users.
Reliance Communications, the Indian carrier offering Facebook’s service, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Zuckerberg has long defended the service, saying it does not block or throttle other applications or create fast lanes—two things net neutrality advocates oppose.