Free Basics: Myths and Facts

November 19, 2015

MYTH: Facebook and its telecom partners pick and choose what services are on Free Basics

FACT: When we initially released Internet.org, it was with a limited number of partners. There were some legitimate complaints. So we listened and opened the program. Internet.org – now called Free Basics – is open to any developer and any application that meets basic technical requirements.

MYTH: Facebook gets access to all usage data of sites that are on Free Basics

FACT: Facebook takes user privacy and security extremely seriously. Free Basics receives and stores data on navigation information – the domain or name of the Third-Party Service accessed through Free Basics, and the amount of data (e.g. megabytes) used when you access or use that service – because it needs to determine what traffic can be delivered free of data charges. Facebook does not store any personal navigation information from within the service beyond 90 days. We don’t share any personally identifiable information with our content partners and there is no requirement for those partners to send Facebook such information about their users.

MYTH: Free Basics is creating an unfair internet access model

FACT: Free Basics is designed to promote an internet access model that is free and non-exclusive. The Free Basics Platform is free for end users. It is also free for content partners (i.e., the services that partner with Free Basics); Facebook does not require content partners, to pay to be included in Free Basics. Neither Facebook nor its content partners pay the operators for the data people consume through Free Basics. Finally, Free Basics is not exclusive to any operator, and Facebook is willing to work with any operator that wants to provide free basic services. In the Philippines, Malawi, Bangladesh, Thailand and Mongolia, Facebook already works with multiple operators in a single market.

MYTH: Free Basics prevents people from experiencing the full internet and they are likely to stay on Free Basics

FACT: We have a saying at Facebook: data wins arguments. And the data from this program shows that it works to open up the full internet to people who use Free Basics. 50% of people who use Free Basics are paying for data – and access the internet outside of free basic services – within 30 days of coming online for the first time.

MYTH: When people leave Free Basics they don’t realize they are now paying for the internet

FACT: When people leave Free Basics they are clearly notified that there will be data charges incurred.

MYTH: Free Basics advertising is targeted at people who are already online and is an attempt to encourage them to switch service providers

FACT: Advertising for Free Basics is happening across a variety of demographics, including rural areas where there are people not yet online. Also, dual SIMS in India are common so people can choose to use two service providers.

MYTH: Free Basics is a way for Facebook to control the internet

FACT: The goal of Free Basics is to introduce people to the value of the internet through hundreds of free basic services, beyond Facebook. Giving people a list that features a broader set of services is important for helping people experience the value of other online services, like women’s health information and education services. A key component for developers participating in Free Basics is to encourage the exploration of the entire internet.

MYTH: Facebook is entering into lucrative deals with their telco partners

FACT: No money is being paid to Facebook, developers or telcos. Facebook does not receive or give any money to developers, telcos or anyone else for their participation in Free Basics. The only money spent is to promote the program so the unconnected are aware of how to connect.

MYTH: Free Basics creates tiered, unequal interests for developers by creating a consumer data pricing differentiation between those companies which are on board and those which are not

FACT: Free Basics is an application and website that addresses the affordability and awareness challenges by giving people a way to experience the internet for the first time with zero data charges. The Free Basics Platform is open to any developer and any application that meets basic technical requirements. Facebook offers a broad package of tools for companies to help launch their service – both in and out of Free Basics, and holds developer events globally to connect with and help developers launch their online services.

MYTH: Internet.org is failing to address the internet infrastructure challenges India has

FACT: Internet.org is a Facebook-led initiative bringing together technology leaders, nonprofits and local communities to connect the two thirds of the world that doesn’t have internet access. It helps eliminate some of the key barriers to people coming online – infrastructure, affordability and awareness. Facebook and Internet.org partners are working together on a series of practical projects and experiments designed to break down these barriers:

  • Increasing data affordability and enabling new business models that will reduce the barriers to access and connectivity. This is Free Basics. In India, more than 40% of users coming online for the first time with Free Basics pay for access to the full internet within 30 days of joining Free Basics. Of the people who have joined Free Basics, there are 8x more people who have paid for, and are using the full internet, than there are who have chosen to continue only using Free Basics.
  • Expanding reliable network access to communities that have no or limited connectivity by focusing on infrastructure R&D projects. This is our Connectivity Lab, which is exploring longer-term solutions to connectivity and new infrastructure that can help reduce some of the physical barriers to access, including satellites, lasers and unmanned aerial systems.
  • Developing relevant content and services by accelerating the creation and distribution of relevant local language digital content and services that perform well on older devices and networks. This is the Internet.org Innovation Lab that simulates network conditions typically found in growth markets, giving developers an environment to test and optimize their applications for new customers across different regions.
  • We also recently announced Express WiFi, a program we are testing in India that allows customers to purchase fast, reliable and affordable data packages to access the internet via local hotspots.

MYTH: Free Basics is not open, public and democratic

FACT: Free Basics is open to any developer and any application that meets basic technical requirements. Services are compatible with Free Basics if they meet two criteria: (1) they are data-efficient (e.g., services that use VoIP, video, file transfer, or photos larger than 200 KB are not compatible), and (2) they meet the technical specifications outlined in the technical guidelines. Free Basics is designed to promote an internet access model that is free and non-exclusive. The Free Basics Platform is free for end users. It is also free for content partners; Facebook does not require content partners, to pay to be included in Free Basics. Neither Facebook nor its content partners pay the operators for the data people consume through Free Basics. Finally, Free Basics is not exclusive to any operator, and Facebook is willing to work with any operator that wants to provide free basic services. In the Philippines, Malawi and Mongolia, Facebook already works with multiple operators in a single market.

MYTH: Free Basics is giving people a distorted view of the internet and Facebook should instead focus on offering subsidized data costs for the entire internet

FACT: To help connect the two-thirds of the world that doesn’t have internet access, we are experimenting with helping operators build sustainable business models. Building, maintaining, and operating network infrastructure is expensive and we want to help them to sustain and grow this investment. Subsidizing the cost of data can be dangerous and usually distorts markets, which in the long run is bad for users on many levels. Our goal is to create a model that supports diverse, dynamic internet markets with thriving developer communities and an abundance of local content so that people have an opportunity to consume a vast array of content and services. The Free Basics Platform gives developers an opportunity to include their services in Free Basics and gives people choice over the services that they want to use.

MYTH: Free Basics violates the principles of net neutrality

FACT: Facebook supports net neutrality and has worked throughout the world to ensure that services can’t be blocked or throttled and to ensure that fast lanes are prohibited. Net neutrality seeks to ensure that network operators don’t limit access to services people want to use, and the goal of Free Basics is to provide more people with access. It is good for consumer choice and consumer value. Net neutrality and Free Basics can and must co-exist.

MYTH: Facebook has launched Free Basics to help drive its own growth and revenue opportunities within developing countries

FACT: There are no ads within the Facebook experience on Free Basics. If revenue were the goal, Facebook would have focused resources on markets where online advertising is already thriving.

MYTH: Free Basics is a threat to local innovation

FACT: There is no greater threat to local innovation than leaving people offline. Free Basics increases the potential audience for services and helps bring more people online faster, using the entire internet. Facebook offers a broad package of tools for organizations to help launch their service – both in and out of Free Basics, and holds events globally to connect with and help developers launch their online services.

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