It hasn’t taken long for Facebook and Reliance Communications to turn things around.
The dust on the Trai ruling which banned Free Basics, Airtel Zero and differential pricing hasn’t even settled yet and the social media giant has already figured out a loophole.
According to a report in The Times Of India, Reliance Communications (RCom) – Facebook’s India partner for the interface – has decided to make it a paid platform.
This is in complete contrast to another report in the Economic Times says that a Facebook spokesperson said that, “Free Basics is no longer available to people in India” but in that lies the catch.
Reliance believes that they have done all the hard work in setting up associations and if they let it fall away, it will do them no good. So they will reintroduce it with a different name and charge a nominal fee.
It will still be as good as free and that should take care of the reservations that Trai had about the service.
“To be fully compliant with the new regulations announced by TRAI, RCom has already begun the process of re-configuring access to FreeBasics, from the current free regime to a chargeable one, as per the existing data plans of our customers,” an RCom spokesperson told ET. “The extensive technical configurations involved will be completed in the next few days.”
The decision will defeat Facebook’s stated objective of providing a free-of-cost platform to connect millions of people but for RCom it’s just business.