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Facebook should be given fair hearing for Free Basics in India: US official

tech Updated: Sep 28, 2016 21:44 IST

Demonstrators of the Free Software Movement Karnataka hold placards during a protest against Facebook's Free Basics initiative, in Bengaluru.(AFP File Photo)

Facebook should be given a “fair hearing” regarding its ‘Free Basics’ programme, a senior US official said on Wednesday.

The ‘Free Basics’ initiative, which had triggered a debate on net neutrality in the country, was shut down by Facebook in February.

When asked whether American authorities would step in to help Facebook resume the ‘Free Basics’ programme in India, US Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs’ senior official Daniel A Sepulveda said the social media company is “more than capable of advocating for itself”.

“The only thing that we would ask for is for fair treatment, so that they get a fair hearing. And then it is up to your regulator to decide for your nation whether or not that is a programme that you want to embrace. There are other countries that have. But we don’t have an opinion on it,” Sepulveda, who is Ambassador and Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, said.

Facebook pulled the plug on ‘Free Basics’ in February amid a raging debate on whether the American company was violating principles of net neutrality, which refers to equal treatment for all online traffic.

Sepulveda said the US government supports “open, interoperable, secure and reliable network” for providing Internet access to people.

“...we believe that Internet has been and can be a democratising force, enabling both people and firms to challenge concentrated power,” he added.

He also said that India plays an important role in the global discussions related to Internet governance.