Very rarely does one witness street-level protests in Gachibowli, home to global IT majors and a symbol of growth of the city. Sitting under a tent erected on the main road leading to IIIT and ISB on Saturday evening were an unusual set of protestors consisting of youngsters armed with laptops and a good knowledge of the ways of the virtual world. For the next three days, they will try to successfully execute their Herculean mission - to “discredit” the online and offline blitzkrieg launched by Facebook to push their latest initiative ‘Free Basics’.
At a time when the pros and cons of ‘Free Basics’ programme, which allows users to access certain online services for free, are being discussed widely, the Free Software Movement of India (FSMI) organised protests in several towns across Telangana and AP with a demand to scrap it. A ‘Struggle Centre’ was unveiled at the protest site from where the members will try to convince people about their stand through various social media initiatives and garner support. “There are around 3 billion internet users worldwide and 1 billion websites. As per this ratio, one out of every three persons is a content creator and this network is lost in Free Basics.” The members also tried to drive home the point free internet access to rural households was possible with alternative solutions through a device called ‘Freedom Box’. “By just spending around Rs. 50,000, we can connect a whole village and create a network through the magic box that we designed which acts like a router and has other facilities like free calling. With the amount spent by Facebook for promoting ‘Free Basics’, we can connect one-third of the villages in the country. It is high time, the government puts a brake on this misleading campaign and take responsibility,” said M. Siddhartha, member of Swechha, the State chapter of FSMI. For all those who have signed up to support the online campaign of ‘Free Basics’ but want to reverse their decision, the protestors have created a space on theirhttp://saynotofreebasics.fsmi
.in/where they can register and this will be put up in public domain or submitted to the government.