January 20, 2016

TRAI lets Down Massive 300 Crore Facebook Free Basics Campaigns – A Good Move By Govt Agency

Facebook’s drive to introduce the Free Basics platform in India continues to immerse deeper into the insane river. A week later it questioned Facebook’s appeal of having 11 million Free Basics supporters, the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI) has written a stinging criticism of the company’s entrancing campaign to collect support the platform that claims to render free ‘Internet’ access to millions of Indians.

In response to the questions raised by the social media behemoth in regards to their multi-million dollar Free Basic campaign, TRAI or the Telecom Regulator Authority of India published a letter. You might already know, the giant social media spent millions of dollars so as to garner support for their Free basics campaign. TRAI addressed to Facebook countering assertions levied by the social networking giant and criticising the way in which the company made millions of its users send emails to TRAI in support of the contentious Free Basics service.

TRAI’s Response Towards Facebook’s Free Basics Campaign

The letter addressed to Ms Ankhi Das, who is the Public Policy Director at Facebook, TRAI restates its former position that the responses sent in by Facebook on behalf its users were not, in fact, responses to the four questions posed by the regulatory authority in its consultation paper on ‘Differential Prices for Data Services’ but merely templated response manifesting support of Free Basics. This letter sent by TRAI will definitely restore your trust and belief in Government agencies.

On Facebook’s act of esteeming its immense user base to obtain support for Free Basics, TRAI says that Facebook’s “urging has the flavour of reducing this meaningful consultative exercise designed to produce informed decisions in a transparent manner into a crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll.”

The letter says that unsuspecting users were prompted with a pre-written message, which would be sent to TRAI to show their support for Free Basics. In the first couple of days, Free Basics campaign generated over 6 lakh emails in Facebook in support to Free Basics. By the end of this campaign, Facebook alleged that they had sent over 11 million emails to TRAI in support of Free Basics.

The Net Neutrality supporters endured solicitous about this offensive campaign from social media giant, Facebook.

However, TRAI called it As a Trick!

After the date of consultation paper passed, TRAI asked Facebook to get in touch with all these people, as none of them had responded the 4 questions that TRAI had asked in the consultation paper. TRAI even attempted to reach these users, but all the emails fired back.

The questions put by TRAI were:

Question 1: Should the TSPs be allowed to have differential pricing for data usage for accessing different websites, applications or platforms?

Question 2: If differential pricing for data usage is permitted, what measures should be adopted to ensure that the principles of non-discrimination, transparency, affordable internet access, competition and market entry and innovation are addressed?

Question 3: Are there alternative methods/technologies/business models, other than differentiated tariff plans, available to achieve the objective of providing free internet access to the consumers? If yes, please suggest/describe these methods/technologies/business models. Also, describe the potential benefits and disadvantages associated with such methods/technologies/business models?

Question-4: Is there any other issue that should be considered in the present consultation on differential pricing for data services?”

Let’s take a look at the citations of what TRAI told Facebook!

1. TRAI’s Response (In Consultation Paper)

Whether the Facebook users have informed the decision in supporting Free Basics and whether Facebook had conveyed their users with the true facts.

Trai response to Facebook Free basics campaign

Response: Facebook gave a reason that TRAI’s email address was not working…Here TRAI completely mocks Facebook here.

Facebook's Answer to Trai question

2. TRAI indirectly calls all the templatized responses a fake (not in specific words)

Trai's Questions to Facebook

3. TRAI received only one Legitimate Response

In the latest letter, TRAI included the 4 questions from the consultation paper along with templatized responses by 11 million (or 16 million) Free Basics supporters. TRAI goes to say that they received only one legitimate response which was already uploaded on TRAI website.


The best part was left for last. TRAI literally warned Facebook for making a farce of the whole consultation process and said it can have “dangerous ramifications”.

TRAI's Warning to Facebook

Salute TRAI and the people behind drafting such an excellent response. They have mitigated no words in describing spade, a spade!

You can check Full text of TRAI’s letter to Facebook here:

Most of us in India don’t have a good impression on the Government when it comes to getting work done. We have a general impression that they are incapable and inattentive when it comes to executing their responsibilities. As of now, we can see have been changing in India and the response to Facebook is a fabulous example.

About the author 

Imran Uddin

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