Consumer Issues
Why Free Basics from Facebook is definitely not free Internet
Facebook, after facing criticism with its Internet.org, is again trying to lure mobile users from India with its Free Basics through its huge media campaign and trick to send automatic support email to TRAI
 
Over the past few weeks, there are full-blown multi-page advertisements in newspapers and hoardings about Facebook’s Free Basics. Unfortunately, if you felt that the Free Basics means free internet for connecting the ones who cannot afford net access in India, you are mistaken. In reality, it merely means breaking the fabric of the Internet: non-gated and open access.
 
Remember, Internet.org and the net neutrality issues that rocked earlier part of this year? Through Internet.org, the same Facebook along with some telecom operators was promising free access to sites and carrier they chose under the guise of digital inclusion. After a hue and cry, Internet.org took a backseat. But it looks like the same is being brought back as Free Basics by Facebook.   
 
With Free Basics, Facebook is trying to be the regulator who decides which website or app will be part of it. Only the website or apps, which Facebook decides to be part of Free Basics, will be available as Internet to users. This is completely opposite to how the Internet was created and exists today. The internet has grown by leaps and bounds because it has remained agnostic to the media and content consumed by its customers across the network. This unique property of the internet was first described by Prof Tim Wu as net-neutrality. Both Internet.org and Free Basics have same motive, to limit the access to internet under the guise of ‘free’ label. 
 
At that time, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, too urged people to oppose Internet.org from Facebook. Berners-Lee also warned about attempts to improve internet access around the world by offering cut-down versions of the web, such as Facebook’s Internet.org project. Users should “just say no” to such proposals, he was quoted in The Guardian.
 
India is currently Facebook’s second-biggest market after the US with 130 million users, and many net neutrality advocates believe that its campaign is another example of how the company is misusing its size and influence to form the opinions of Internet users in emerging economies, says a report from TechCrunch. “Free Basics, which became available throughout India last month, is a program by Facebook initiative Internet.org to provide basic Internet services, like search, Wikipedia, health information, and weather updates, for free to all users. While it sounds altruistic, Free Basics has the potential to drive reams of traffic to sites from certain providers (including Facebook) at the expense of others, which violates the principles of net neutrality. The TRAI plans to hold a public hearing on net neutrality next month,” the report says. 
 
Facebook motives are foggy 
If the real motive is to get many users in India to use the Internet, then there are a few questions that beg to be answered. 
  1.  Why only Facebook and a few other websites/ apps would be accessible and why not the entire internet? 
  2.  Why Facebook and the operators are acting as the regulator and would be deciding as to who is part of Free Basics and who isn't?
  3.  What is the guarantee that they would not act to the detriment of others? 
 
Desperate Attempts to lure users
Mobile users in India, who would have logged into their Facebook account during the past one week, may have seen a notification message “Act Now to Save Free Basics in India”. By asking users submit this form, the response is then sent to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). Several users reported on Twitter that despite that they did not submit the form and were merely scrolling the content, a confirmation of their support towards Free Basics was sent automatically. Moreover, there is no way to change the response sent by Facebook to TRAI. 
 
It also came to light that several users based outside India, primarily in the US reported seeing the notification message to support Free Basics. Facebook later responded to the website Recode that it was by accident. 
 
It appears strategically, Facebook’s propaganda is to persuade users in India to push for Free Basics by portraying altruistic motives and in return, gain user base in India who are not using the Internet yet. 
 
TRAI tells Reliance Communication to put Free Basics on hold
Following directions from TRAI, Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications (RCOM) has decided to put on hold the commercial launch of Free Basics. "As directed by TRAI, the commercial launch of Free Basics has been kept in abeyance, till they consider all details and convey a specific approval," a Reliance Communications spokesperson said. RCOM is the only telecom service provider offering Free Basics in India.
 
According to advertisements in the media, "Free Basics by Facebook is a first step to connecting one billion Indians to jobs, education, and opportunities online, and ultimately a better future. But Free Basics is at risk of being banned, slowing progress towards digital equality in India." Also, it is not clear as to how multi-page advertisements in The Economic Times help Free Basics reach the poorest sections of the Indian population.
 

You may also want to read...
What Facebook won’t tell you or The top 10 facts about free basics

(Courtesy: SavetheInternet.in)

 

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25 die in Saudi hospital fire
At least 25 people were killed and 107 injured on Thursday as a horrific fire engulfed parts of a hospital in Saudi Arabia's Jizan city, media reports said.
 
The Saudi civil defence directorate said the blaze broke out at the Jizan General Hospital at about 2.30 a.m., Al Jazeera reported.
 
The disaster occurred in the intensive care unit and the maternity ward on the first floor of the hospital, Xinhua news agency added.
 
At least 20 fire engines battled the blaze. Other patients were rushed to a number of nearby public and private hospitals.
 
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Looking bright and young: Solution-specific beauty services woo Indians
Looking bright and rejuvenated seemed to be the people's priority in 2015. Whether it was skin-brightening or hydration services, there has been a rise in the demand for solution-specific beauty services in the country, with several anti-ageing and rejuvenation treatments topping the favourite salon service list, say the experts.
 
Consumers today are particularly "empowered". Technology and innovation for most part has enabled this fundamental shift. The beauty and wellness industry has also witnessed this change, where customers advocate the need for constant innovation from service providers, shared Disha Meher, national expert - skin and nails, Lakmé Salon.
 
"There has been a growing demand for solution-specific beauty services; 43 percent of the volume consumed from our skin care portfolio at Lakmé Salon (through the year till September 2015) has been skin-brightening services, across India, followed by hydration services," Meher told IANS.
 
Among the popular services consumed is Lakmé Perfect Radiance - Ramp-ready Ritual with specific benefits. Then there is Lakmé Luminance 3+ Ritual which offers 3+ benefits of collagen booster, whitening, spot reduction and radiance.
 
Beauty and hair expert Shahnaz Husain said the treatment varies from region to region.
 
"In cities like Mumbai and Chennai, where the climate remains warm and humid, Pearl Facial, Clean-up, Acne Treatment, Anti-tan Treatment, Diamond Facial and Platinum Facials are more popular, while in cities like Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru, the demand differs according to seasonal differences. Normal Facial, Gold Facial, Plant Stem Cells are popular during winter," Husain, a Padma Shri award winner, said.
 
Husain also said that awareness is so high now and that there are so many jobs where appearance of a person counts, that a cross section of occupations are seen among clients - from the corporate world, hotel industry, marketing, fashion and television jobs and many others. Housewives, too, make a good customer base.
 
"Today, along with greater awareness, there is higher disposable income among women. There are more and more women of higher age-groups who are going in for salon treatments, especially since there are several anti-ageing and rejuvenation treatments. Teenagers, on the other hand, opt for acne or oily skin clean-ups. Anti-tan treatments are popular among most age groups," she added.
 
Makeover expert Aashmeen Munjaal says maintaining and beautifying tresses continues to be important.
 
"Mithyic Oil hair ritual has been the most popular treatment among all. The reason behind its popularity are the results and less usage of chemicals which has become topmost preference by clients. There has been a severe drop in products which are high in chemical content; henceforth people respond in a very positive manner to treatments like these," said Munjaal, who's also the director of Star Salon and Academy.
 
People's battle with hairfall has still not ended.
 
"There has been a rise of customers this year as compared to last year for hair problems. Every passing day, the number of people of both genders losing hair is increasing. The total rise has been of 15 to 20 percent this year," Sanket Shah, CEO and managing director of Advanced Hair Studio, India and Middle East, told IANS.
 
"Also, the age group is getting younger. As many as 85 percent of our clients are aged between 20 and 40," he added.
 
He says the cost of procedures can be as low as Rs.2,000 and as high as Rs.500,000.
 
In the year gone by, it seems like Indian consumers were more keen on looking for solutions for their growing beauty problems than just maintaining their looks.
 
Highlights:
 
* Solution-specific beauty services on the rise.
 
* Climatic conditions influence demand for beauty services.
 
* Greater awareness and higher disposable income among women encouraging them to splurge on treatments to improve their appearance.
 
* Preference for products that use less chemicals.
 
* Rise in hair problems and expenditure on the same.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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