Hundreds of people showed up at an auditorium in India’s capital on Thursday for a passionate hours long debate about whether Facebook Inc. and others are undermining freedom of the Internet by offering free services that give people limited access to the Web.
Representatives of India’s cellular-service operators joined net-neutrality activists, startup executives and regular Internet users for an open-house discussion hosted by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. The session centered on the importance of net neutrality, a principle that holds that the Internet is a public good and all data on it should be treated equally.
Discussion of the concept, which was little-known in India until last year, has exploded into a full-blown war of words between some net-neutrality advocates and supporters of Facebook.
Since last year, Facebook, along with India’s fourth-largest telecommunications company, Reliance Communications Ltd., has been offering what it calls Free Basics, an online service that allows free access to a limited selection of websites, foreign media reports.