The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has banned all differential pricing services in the country, which includes Facebook’s Free Basics as well.
Free Basics was launched to Indian users in November last year, allowing users to access health, education, jobs, and communication services for free by partnering with Reliance Communications.
Free Basics was aiming to connect the next 1 billion Indians to the internet, but was put on hold by TRAI until the decision is made, and now completely blocking the service throughout the country.
Free Basics was under a lot of controversy in India recently, per critics, the service violated basic net neutrality guidelines by restricting content.
Here is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s statement with regard to this decision.
While we're disappointed with today's decision, I want to personally communicate that we are committed to keep working to break down barriers to connectivity in India and around the world. Internet.org has many initiatives, and we will keep working until everyone has access to the internet.
He also added,
Connecting India is an important goal we won't give up on, because more than a billion people in India don't have access to the internet. We know that connecting them can help lift people out of poverty, create millions of jobs and spread education opportunities. We care about these people, and that's why we're so committed to connecting them.
In addition to Facebook’s Free Basics, India’s leading telecom operator – Airtel was also offering similar service such as Airtel Zero, which also allowed users to access certain number of sites for free, which will now be banned as well.