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No corporate works for charity – by intention and definition. To explain why Facebook’s intentions are a fraud, I will take the experience of Delhi’s healthcare policy.
Delhi decided to provide quality healthcare to all its citizens. They started allotting free land (Like Spectrum) at fraction of the cost for setting up hospitals with a pre-condition that they provide free treatment to 15% BPL category patients (Like Free Basics). However, I have rarely seen an BPL category inpatients in any private premium hospital. Every bed is at a premium and they wouldn’t waste it on a BPL patient who isn’t paying for it. But the official records will show 15% patients from EWS category having been treated. In India, most books are manufactured to suit a regulation!!
An ideal situation would have been to collect 15% of the turnover of all these hospitals and use that money to insure the EWS category. That would ensure fair treatment of EWS without discrimination. Everyone becomes a similarly paying customer as money is reimbursed by the insurance company. But than, every transparent policy kills corruption and no government will allow that, including AAP.
Back to Facebook. It is a NASDAQ listed company. Mark Zuckerberg owns only 28% of the company and other investors include corporates, PEs, VCs etc. Analysts will punish FB with impunity the moment they see it swerve from the path of being a profit making enterprise.
If FB’s intentions are indeed honourable, they will use all the resources they intend to invest on Free Basics to give limited access to all the population, of ALL THE INTERNET. Research done at the Oxford Internet Institute has found that “they would rather be given the choice of deciding what they want to access, with millions of websites and apps to choose from, for say, three days, over being given unlimited access to a limited selection”.
This action of FB is about control. This is about being the gatekeeper. This is about controlling the pipeline and what is beamed through the pipe. To dress it up as charity is a lie. To mislead us is a fraud. FB is a company and they will not be allowed to do anything remotely for charity that doesn’t have benefits for the company. If indeed it is charity, let them declare it in an SEC filing on NASDAQ, allocate funds for such charity and face The Wall Street.
The government must realise that private enterprises for profit can never be a vehicle that carries the mission of Digital India. The Modi government has made a promise and they need to fulfil it without FB being the vehicle. We can easily afford to fund every data connection, if it uses less than 64KB data (with people using over that paying for all data). Spectrum, like land, is a national resource not to be frittered away. We don’t need free basics. What we need is free internet to connect India, even if it is for a very limited period of time.