from the follow-the-money dept.
Facebook is interested in bringing zero-rated "Free Basics" Internet access to Americans, after its failure in India:
Facebook has been in talks for months with U.S. government officials and wireless carriers with an eye toward unveiling an American version of an app that has caused controversy abroad, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. The social media giant is trying to determine how to roll out its program, known as Free Basics, in the United States without triggering the regulatory scrutiny that effectively killed a version of the app in India earlier this year. If Facebook succeeds with its U.S. agenda for Free Basics — which has not been previously reported — it would mark a major victory for the company as it seeks to connect millions more to the Web, and to its own platform.
The U.S. version of Free Basics would target low-income and rural Americans who cannot afford reliable, high-speed Internet at home or on smartphones. The app does not directly pay for users' mobile data. Rather, it allows users to stretch their data plans by offering, in partnership with wireless carriers, free Internet access to resources such as online news, health information and job leads.
"No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged by the service provider for the purpose of evading the prohibition in this regulation," TRAI said in a statement.
This would effectively eliminate Facebook's strategy for "Free Basics" which was to serve users certain websites for free, while charging for others.
Facebook had to say:
"Our goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, non-exclusive and free [as in beer] platform. While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the internet and the opportunities it brings."
I am pleased that any agents within the government who wanted this surveillance and propaganda engine put into place for the purposes of crowd control have been denied their plans.
John M. Donnelly, a senior writer at CQ Roll Call, said he was trying to talk with FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly one-on-one after a news conference when two plainclothes guards pinned him against a wall with the backs of their bodies.
“Not only did they get in between me and O’Rielly but they put their shoulders together and simultaneously backed me up into the wall and pinned me to the wall for about 10 seconds just as I started to say, “Commissioner O’Rielly, I have a question,” Donnelly said Friday.
Donnelly said he was stopped long enough to allow O’Rielly to walk away.
Donnelly, who also happens to be chair of the National Press Club Press Freedom team, said he was then forced out of the building after being asked why he had not posed his question during the news conference.
O'Rielly apologized to Donnelly on Twitter, saying he didn't recognize Donnelly in the hallway. "I saw security put themselves between you, me and my staff. I didn't see anyone put a hand on you. I'm sorry this occurred."
Senators, including Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, are warning the Federal Communications Commission about its treatment of reporters after a CQ Roll Call reporter was manhandled Thursday.
“The Federal Communications Commission needs to take a hard look at why this happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. As The Washington Post pointed out, it’s standard operating procedure for reporters to ask questions of public officials after meetings and news conferences,” the Iowa Republican said. “It happens all day, every day. There’s no good reason to put hands on a reporter who’s doing his or her job.”