Those who are against Free Basics say that even the poor would stay away from it if they are explained the issues at stake here, like the threat to net neutrality, where telecoms will start deciding the speed at which particular websites can be accessed. But somehow, most denunciations of Facebook’s evil designs are in English, aimed at an English audience, and the poor offline Bihari villager has no clue what is going on in his name.
If, however, some of them had access to Free Basics, then they would be able to read the numerous Facebook posts that had linked articles like Nilekani’s and could make an informed decision.
Arguments against Free Basics are pegged to the past or future because there is nothing to oppose in a free service that people can choose to avail of (or reject). Instead, you are either taken to a time when the idea of the internet and net neutrality came about or to a future when Free Basics could metamorphose into a demon that will carve out the online space into little parcels and there will be only walled gardens. Startups in the online space have reason to be anxious because walled gardens are not good for their business, but that is their problem and successful entrepreneurship is about overcoming entry barriers. There is no reason for an ordinary man to put their interests above his.
The Sanjay Sahni who never came across a computer ‘one day’ should take whatever comes free to him because that is one of the few lollipops that capitalism throws at him. Why should he wait for a government or another big corporation to give him the entire earth free instead of a walled garden? Give it first and then ask him to stay away from Free Basics. When he gets it, why would he choose to remain inside a walled garden? Walled gardens are very good for people who are locked up without sunlight.