00:40 GMT02 August 2021
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    Facebook and its partners launched a new service in India which gives users free access to Facebook and several partners of the project, forcing them to pay for alternative content.

    Facebook's Internet.org non-profit, in coordination with India's cellular service Reliance launched a free Internet service in six states on India on Tuesday, giving users access to Facebook and about 30 other websites.

    However, despite having the stated goal of connecting two thirds of the world' population to the Internet, the service appears to be launched for promotional purposes rather than providing user a connection to the world.

    "We address the affordability of data by having beneficial services and then we’ll make it scalable for our partners so that once these users want to use more, they just buy the regular (data) plan," the director of Facebook's Global Operator Partnerships told Reuters.

    Gurdeep Singh, chief executive of Reliance's consumer arm, declined to comment on the sources of funding for the project, raising doubts that principles of net neutrality are supported.

    On its website, the non-profit has a contact form for prospective content providers. However, the project does not have a transparent set of criteria for selecting partners, including possible monetary contributions to the service.

    Although the service provides access to some non-commercial services such as Wikipedia, it gives an effective monopoly to specific commercial services such as OLX, an online marketplace, and Reuters Market Lite, a service for agricultural information.

    When it comes to news sites, the service offers only one in Tamil, Malayalam and Marathi, and three in Hindi. Seven of India's biggest English-language outlets are also represented, out of nearly 70,000 newspapers in the country. For international news, the British government broadcaster BBC has an absolute monopoly.

    Facebook previously launched similar services in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Colombia. Facebook's partners in the project include phone manufacturers Nokia and Samsung, telecommunications companies  Ericsson, Qualcomm and Mediatek, as well as Opera Software, creator of the Opera Browser.


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    India, Internet.org, Facebook, net neutrality
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