Reliance Communications Halts Free Basics, at Least Temporarily, After Government Request

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has asked Reliance Communications to stop the Free Basics service, at least temporarily.

"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 said, the Times of India reports.

It always is hard for any firm regulated by a government entity to resist such "requests."

Free Basics, called by many a zero rated approach, allows mobile consumers to use and sample a selection of Internet apps without incurring a data plan charge, or even if they do not have a data plan.

In India and elsewhere, including the United States, regulators, policymakers and policy advocates have been arguing that zero rated apps are a violation of network neutrality principles.

Others argue the practice is a business policy, like offering coupons, discounts and other promotions.

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission has requested more information from mobile service providers about programs that allow users to listen to streaming music, or watch streaming video, without incurring usage charges on their mobile data plans.

The T-Mobile US "Binge On" program provides an example of that effort. AT&T, meanwhile, offers a sponsored data program where advertisers can sponsor data consumption by consumers, much as toll-free calling works. Verizon, for its part, also is working on a sponsored data program.
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