Facebook reportedly in talks to bring ‘Free Basics’ Internet service to U.S.

A controversial basic Internet service that Facebook has been trying to deliver to developing countries might be coming to the United States.

The social media giant has been talking to U.S. government officials and wireless carriers about launching the “Free Basics” app for low-income and rural Americans, The Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The app includes free services such as the news, health and local government information.

But Free Basics has also run into roadblocks in countries such as India where some fear it runs afoul of net neutrality — a principle to keep the Internet open and free — because it initially limited the web service on the app to certain websites such as Facebook and Wikipedia. Despite opening the Free Basics platform to developers, India’s telecom regulatory body issued rules that barred the service in the country.

The tech firm is apparently trying to figure out how to launch the service here without facing the same backlash it has in other countries.

“On one side are those who view services such as Facebook’s as a critical tool in connecting underserved populations to the Internet, in some cases for the first time. On the other side are those who argue that exempting services from data caps creates a multitiered playing field that favors businesses with the expertise and budgets to participate in such programs,” Brian Fung, a reporter for The Washington Post, wrote.

Free Basics is currently available in 53 countries and municipalities, according to Facebook.

Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP /Getty Images


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