Facebook is attempting to offer free internet access to hundreds of millions of people in India through its “Free Basics” system. To accomplish that goal the social network has urged citizens to send a standard Facebook created message to regulators in the country.
Officials at the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India are now asking Facebook to change how it delivers those message.
Nearly two million people have sent requests for “Free Basics” access, but the regulator, which is considering whether the service is legal, says the messages of support are not helpful.
According to officials at the agency, Facebook user messages “do not address the specific questions” raised by the agency about net neutrality.
Facebook said it revised the language to address the specifics. “We are aiming to give people in India a voice in this debate and an opportunity to support Free Basics,” a spokesman at Facebook said on Monday.
“Free Basics,” formerly known as Internet.org, offers limited Internet access to consumers who cannot afford a broadband connection or smartphone data plan.
The service gives free access only to websites and apps that Facebook approves. Users can gain free access to health, travel, jobs, and local government websites.
Along with Facebook, other available apps include AccuWeather, Ask.com, Baby Center, Bing, Dictionary.com and Wikipedia, among a small selection of other websites and services.
Critics have argued since the inception of Internet.org that the program violates the central tenets of net neutrality, which stipulate that all Internet content and users should be treated equally.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has pushed back against these critics, arguing that the “Free Basics” platform is open to all software developers, has no advertisements, and will help less fortunate users escape poverty by gaining free access to the internet.
“Instead of wanting to give people access to some basic internet services for free, critics of the program continue to spread false claims — even if that means leaving behind a billion people,” the Facebook CEO wrote recently in the Times of India. “Who could possibly be against this?”
Forums such as “Save The Internet” have helped garner more than 500,000 comments against Free Basics.
TRAI is expected to release its official position on “differential pricing” in the coming weeks.