Facebook keen on Asia despite India saying no to Free Basics: Top executive

New York, March 16: Despite India saying no to Free Basics and going for net neutrality, the social networking giant eyes big growth in Asia than any other parts of the world, a top Facebook executive told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Tuesday.

According to Dan Neary, Facebook’s vice president for Asia Pacific, “the potential is greater in Asia-Pacific than it is in any other region because we’ve got two thirds of the world’s population, and it’s all mobile.” Neary said that Facebook is adding users in Asia at a much faster rate than the rest of the world.

“Some 540 million of Facebook’s 1.59 billion monthly active users were in Asia as of the end of December, up from 449 million a year earlier,” he informed.

According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, their work with internet.org (later rechristened as Free Basics) around the world has already improved many people’s lives as more than 19 million people in 38 countries have been connected through Facebook’s different programmes.

“It was disappointing that Free Basics didn’t get the ruling that we had hoped (in India),” Neary said. Last month, Indian telecom watchdog Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) ruled against Facebook’s Free Basics programme upholding net neutrality and leaving a level playing field for all players.

TRAI said that no service provider would be allowed to charge “discriminatory tariffs” for data services on the basis of content. Zuckerberg conveyed his disappointment in a post but reiterated his commitment to keep working to break down barriers to connectivity in India.

“While I am disappointed with the 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,” Zuckerberg 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,” he posted, adding that “our mission is to make the world more open and connected. That mission continues, and so does our commitment to India.”

“India firmly holds that internet is one of the finest creations of human mind and it should not become the monopoly of few,” said Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad during a summit in Morocco earlier this month.

“We instinctively value internet to be open, plural and inclusive and access should be without discrimination,” Prasad added.

According to Facebook, it has been able to offer Free Basics services to a billion people across Asia, Africa and Latin America. (IANS)

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