FREE Basics, the free internet service being promoted by Facebook as part of its Internet.org initiative was recently shut down in Egypt.
According to a report from AFP, Facebook hopes that it will be able to resolve the situation and restore the service which has only been active in Egypt for two months after it was introduced through Etisalat Egypt. The service had reportedly introduced more than 1 million previously unconnected people to the internet and was being accessed by 3 million users.
Egypt becomes the second country to block the service after India made the move as part of a response to concerns raised around Free Basics’ net neutrality violations. Etisalat Egypt, Facebook, and Egyptian officials haven’t mentioned the reason behind the shutdown in Egypt but there has been a lot of speculation that the country is also concerned about the same net neutrality violations.
There is a chance that Free Service will be reactivated in both India and Egypt as the regulators for these countries are said to be reviewing the impact the service will have on internet use.
Free Basics has been launched in 37 countries worldwide, with 18 of those being in Africa. It is set to be launched in Zimbabwe this month, with the Internet.org team currently engaging with proprietors of internet properties that want to have their platforms zero rated on Free Basics. The service hasn’t been met with any resistance in Zimbabwe.
POTRAZ, the local telecoms regulator hasn’t been entirely active about net neutrality violations, something that has been displayed by the green light shown to other zero-rated sites as well as bundled services for Facebook, WhatsApp, Opera Mini and Twitter which offer differential pricing to parts of the internet.
At the same time, Internet.org’s presence in Zimbabwe also shows that POTRAZ has already approved the introduction of Free Basics to Zimbabweans. This logic is likely driven by the arguments for the service that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook and proponent for Internet.org, has been using as a rebuttal against the loud voices against net neutrality violations.TechZim
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