Facebook’s free Internet service platform, Free Basics that provides Internet to over 3 million Egyptians has been shut down in Egypt. Free Basics makes the Internet accessible to more people by providing them access to a range of free basic services like news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information. This is in a bid to bring more people online and help improve their lives. Free Basics is part of the Facebook’s internet.org initiative. This comes a week after India’s telecom regulator instructed the suspension of Free Basics as it prepares to hold public hearings on net neutrality. Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.
The Free Basics platform which includes its social network and Facebook Messenger was available on Telecoms Etisalat Egypt Network and has been launched in 37 countries so far. Facebook’s second biggest market, India which is outside the United States, is threatened as they arguably made a major public relations mishap there with its “Save Free Basics” campaign, which called on Facebook users to send a pre-filled email to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India supporting the program. A move that probably mislead many people.
According to the Associated Press, It was not immediately clear why the program was stopped. Neither Egyptian officials nor Etisalat nor could immediately be reached for explanation. The program was recently highlighted at an entrepreneurship fair in Cairo. Facebook and other social media sites are extremely popular in Egypt, and were used to organize protests during the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
We hope that this service in Egypt will be restored soonest to connect the less privileged ones to the Internet.