Egyptian officials has shut down Free Basics, a service provided by Facebook which allows users to access free basic Internet. It was not clear as to why the authorities in the country made a move to shut down the program, as they haven’t announced their reasons. In a statement to the Associated Press, Facebook said that it hopes to resolve the situation soon so that the nearly one million Egyptians that were previously without Internet would have access restored.
Facebook added that: “We’re disappointed that Free Basics will no longer be available in Egypt. More than 1 million people who were previously unconnected had been using the Internet because of these efforts.”
Free Basics, which is aimed at developing countries, connects users that do not have Internet with free information regarding healthcare, economics and other info online. Access to the internet is also offered within the app itself, rather than being completely open.
However, despite its free services, it garnered criticism from authorities. For example, regulators in India argued that Free Basics violates the terms of net neutrality by favoring certain carriers, services and websites. Speaking of India, the program was also clamped down in that country over net neutrality concerns a few days ago.
Facebook and other social media websites are extremely popular in Egypt, and were notably used to organise protests during the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.