Facebook offers free but limited access to the Internet in India

Facebook-backed Internet.org has launched an app in India that will provide free data services for accessing selected websites

Facebook-backed Internet.org is extending its offer of free but limited Internet access to India via a mobile app.

The launch of the app in India follows similar introductions in Ghana, Zambia, Colombia, Kenya and Tanzania, despite criticism from activists that the program does not meet its stated objective of providing free and unfettered Internet access to all.

The common thread in all these launches is that the app is available only to subscribers of one operator in the country. In India, for example, Internet.org has tied with Reliance Communications, the country's fourth-largest mobile services provider.

Internet.org is a collaborative effort, launched in 2013 by Facebook and other tech companies including Ericsson and Samsung Electronics, that aims to provide Internet access to those who don't yet have it.

"Connectivity can't just be a privilege for some of the rich and powerful," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last year at the first meeting of Internet.org. "It needs to be something that everyone shares, and an opportunity for everyone."

But the way the free service has been offered has come in for criticism from some social activists.

"This is a walled garden approach that undermines the infrastructure of free expression in India," said Pranesh Prakash, policy director at Centre for Internet and Society, a Bangalore-based organization focused on research and policy advocacy, who pointed out that the app does not offer truly free access to the Internet.

Prakash is also critical that the service will only be available to subscribers of Reliance Communications, defeating the stated aim of Internet.org of providing free Internet access to all.

The free access is limited to 38 websites, including Facebook and its Messenger service, Bing Search, Dictionary.com, Wikipedia, BBC News, Reuters Market Lite for crop and farming information, and local jobs and news sites.

The service will only cover a few Indian states in South India. Reliance customers in the six states can access the free services through the Android app, from the start screen of the Opera Mini mobile web browser, and using the Android app UC Browser for Internet.org. The services will be available in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati and Marathi.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesInternet.orginternetFacebook

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?