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posted by janrinok on Saturday October 08 2016, @04:19PM   Printer-friendly
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.

Also at Ars Technica, CBS, USA Today, and CNET.

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  • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Tuesday October 11 2016, @11:48PM

    by urza9814 (3954) on Tuesday October 11 2016, @11:48PM (#413170) Journal

    Why would the telcos oppose it? The only reason I can see is they might fear that people who don't use much data will stop buying data plans and start using this instead. But they're still getting paid. And for the people who actually DO use it, maybe they can charge more now since they would now also offer "free" basic service. The bottom tier is no longer bottom tier so they can charge more for it. Better yet, "free" basics might not get you to the outside net, but it does get you onto the ISP network. Which gives them an extra lock-in device. If the free basics plan covers sites within their network -- including a specific free basics proxy for stuff like Facebook -- then that means you can't watch Netflix, but you *can* potentially watch XFinity streaming content or whatever.

    So...The ISP may get customers without much expense -- they don't have to build out bandwidth or pay interconnect fees. It's targeting users that probably wouldn't own a smartphone otherwise, so that's money they just aren't getting right now.
    The ISPs may also get more control -- I don't see any details of how the scheme is going to work, but it might involve something like a proxy server at the ISP, which would reduce their bandwidth requirements even further, while providing them full access to the data passing through. Which they can then sell for advertising, or boost their own ad platform, or sell to the gov, whatever.
    The ISPs could also just get paid directly -- companies could pay to get their site listed in a carrier's "Free basics" app.

    The carriers HATE net neutrality, because it prevents them from charging more for certain services and prevents them from creating arbitrary restrictions to control their customers. This is a chance for them to reverse or subvert many of those restrictions while claiming they're doing so to provide access to poor and rural areas for the public benefit. Which means it's far more likely that such schemes will be approved if they're cloaked in "Free Basics" than they would otherwise.

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