Reliance Communications
RComReuters

Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications (RCom) has been asked by the country's telecom regulator to halt Facebook's Free Basics services for the time being.

In November, social networking giant Facebook partnered with India's fourth largest telecom operator RCom to launch its Free Basics services, which provides free internet access to the people of the country.

"We have asked them (Reliance Communications) to stop it and they have given us a compliance report that it has been stopped," a senior government official told TOI.

Many experts criticised the Facebook's Free Basics, which was earlier known as internet.org, saying that it is against the "spirit of net neutrality".

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the founder of e-commerce firm Paytm, on Tuesday took to Twitter to severely criticise Facebook's campaign for its Free Basics programme.

Sharma called for a "jihad for Independent Internet".

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is yet to come to a conclusion on whether Free Basics meets net neutrality standards.

"The question has arisen whether a telecom operator should be allowed to have differential pricing for different kinds of content. Unless that question is answered, it will not be appropriate for us to continue to make that happen," the source said referring to the Facebook-Reliance 'Free Basics' platform.

Net neutrality means "Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites."

Despite receiving TRAI's communication two weeks ago, RCom is still providing Free Basics services to its subscribers, raising doubts over compliance issues.

Meanwhile, Facebook is continuing its campaign for the Free Basics platform "very aggressively", even as TRAI is preparing to come out with recommendations on the differential pricing option.

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