wireless networking, free software, solar power

Non-free basics, half the net, bread vs cake, and more

Posted on | February 9, 2016 | No Comments


My NSRC colleague Steve Song has this excellent write-up Resolving the Free Basics Paradox on the Indian governments decision to effectively ban Facebook’s “free” internet offering.

I will only add two aspects – slightly underrepresented, imho – to the discussion:

1/ Not Free

Nothing new here: It is commonplace knowledge by now that “free” of course is not “free” – money/value is flowing from user to company. So even in this case, we should be careful not to call Facebook’s offering something which it is not – it is not free, and it is not internet.

2/ All of it? Not quite.

The other addition is the global context of Facebook’s fight for India – when stating that “Facebook had already won the Internet” (which i find largely to be true)  we should add: “won that part of the Internet in which US companies dominate”. There is another half, and it is growing into the most promising future markets (Africa) – and India is right on its doorstep.
This is one motivation for Facebook to throw millions into marketing campaigns for their “free internet”. As it may turn out that they are not the only ones who can “connect people”.
The more they become a household commodity, the more they become obsolete and replaceable – the ultimate consequence of the simple fact stated above: it is the user who is the value, not the platform as such.

With those two remarks, i can then only agree with the conclusion: in the name of real free internet, low speed basic free access is the way forward. With freedom of choice about where you put your value.

p.s. over at ICTWorks, the “bread vs. cake” picture is chosen to voice anger about the India decision.
Let us stay in that picture for a moment:
so, Facebook throws out some breadcrumbs, not to feed anyone’s hunger (if it was that they are interested in – well, just give free internet access) but to attract more people to their buffet. Mind you, a buffet where the visitor brings the food – their data, their profiles.
Facebook is an ad and profile agency, running a social network as a tool to get to these profiles. Their product are profiles, so they want more of them. Fair enough. That is not more evil as any other profile business.
But if you are in that business, you have to accept that you are not alone in there – there are others, and there are markets who will take the freedom of saying “no” to your breadcrumbs. Others might offer better food, and ultimately, it will be the visitors who choose their buffet.


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