Social networking website Facebook is cooperating with the Indian government to “explore alternatives” to its controversial ‘Free Basics’ programme, which had to be shut down following the TRAI’s move to bar operators from charging different rates for Internet access based on content.
“Facebook is working cooperatively with the Indian government to see what are the potential alternate solutions moving forward for connecting India,” US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Sepulveda said today.
His remarks came following the US-India Information and Communication Technology (ICT) working group’s meeting here as a part of the fifth cyber dialogue between the two countries. India, which has the world’s largest population “offline”, will have to focus on the wireless mobile space to spread Internet connectivity, which is cost-effective compared to laying down of wires, Sepulveda said when asked to identify the “basic thrust” of the dialogue. “The solution to connecting people, who are either very poor or live very far from others, will have to be a mobile one as laying down of wires from one person to another in a rural community costs a lot. A much more cost-effective solution is wireless,” he told journalists. A decision to establish technical working level groups around new technologies was taken during the talks, Sepulveda, who is also the US Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, said. He said US tech industries are “bullish” on India and “excited” about the upcoming wireless spectrum auction. He flagged the India-specific testing standards of devices, to be marketed in the country as an area of concern, saying most markets recognise international certification. “Mandating production is both counter-productive and bad economics…We are trying to understand why India has separate requirements and what would be the business-friendly ways to meet those standards,” he said.