Free, But Extremely Limited, Internet for Most… Err, Some Indians

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Facebook has launched a project known as ‘Internet.org’, with the noble intent of providing free mobile services for users. It has partnered with telecom industry players and last year had hosted the first Internet.org summit at the Indian capital city of New Delhi, causing speculation that the service would soon be launched in India.

Last week, Reliance Communications, an Indian telecom provider, started to make the free internet service available to the over one billion Indian people with the provision of free basic internet services and the Internet.org app. Facebook had launched a 1 million dollar fund committed to making Indian apps last year.

The free internet service will be available to Reliance customers in six Indian states: Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. These services will be available in English, Hindi and five other local languages: Tamil, Gujarati, Malayalam, Marathi and Telugu.

 

It seems that access will be limited to a few sites, however:

  •  Aaj Tak
  • AccuWeather
  • amarujala.com
  • AP Speaks
  • Babajob
  • BabyCenter & MAMA
  • BBC News
  • Bing Search
  • Cleartrip
  • Daily Bhaskar
  • Dictionary.com
  • ESPN Cricinfo
  • Facebook
  • Facts for Life
  • Girl Effect
  • HungamaPlay
  • IBNLive
  • iLearn
  • India Today
  • Internet Basics
  • Jagran
  • Jagran Josh
  • Maalai Malar
  • Maharashtra Times
  • Malaria No More
  • manoramanews.com
  • Messenger
  • NDTV
  • Newshunt
  • OLX
  • Reliance Astrology
  • Reuters Market Lite
  • Socialblood
  • Times of India
  • TimesJobs
  • Translator
  • Wikipedia
  • wikiHow

 

These sites appear to be a mixture of general knowledge sites, mainstream news websites, communication sites, a few social networking sites (girleffect.org was not the risqué site I had expected) and then there’s, of course, Facebook. Better than nothing, but not a whole lot of freedom. I mean really, what is Bing even doing there if these 38 sites are the only ones accessible??

Facebook, of course, stands to suddenly gain a huge swath of new users, as well as the ability to dictate what sites they access. I mean, it would be absolutely tragic if Indians were to suddenly use their own social media like **COUGH** China **COUGH**. Though I suppose it’s better than nothing, until the majority of rural poor Indians suddenly gain the ability to afford normal internet. Yay freedom of expression, or something like that, I guess though that these limitations would prevent bandwidth problems, particularly if everyone in India started downloading terabytes of content.

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