Egypt has now become the second country to shut down Facebook's controversial free internet service after India did the same last week, according to a report from the Associated Press today. The service, called Free Basics, is part of Facebook's Internet.org initiative that aims to bring internet access to developing nations. Because Free Basics provides access to Facebook and a number of non-Facebook websites at no cost, some regulators and internet activists believe it violates the principles of net neutrality by creating a "walled garden" that prioritizes some sites over others.
Facebook's partner in Egypt, telecom carrier Etisalat Egypt, began providing Free Basics service two months ago, and Facebook says more than 3 million people in Egypt have signed up. Of those 3 million, Facebook says 1 million received access to the internet for the very first time. "We're disappointed that Free Basics will no longer be available in Egypt," Facebook said in a statement provided to the Associated Press. The company hopes to "resolve this situation soon." It's unclear if a telecom regulatory agency shut down the service, as was the case in India. Etisalat Egypt could not be reached for comment at this time.
Facebook says 3 million people in Egypt have signed up for Free Basics
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has in the past tried to clarify that Free Basics does not violate what he believes to be net neutrality. Because Free Basics does not charge different amounts of money for different web services and simply provides free access to certain websites, Zuckerberg claims that it's not violating open internet rules. "Instead of welcoming Free Basics as an open platform that will partner with any telco, and allows any developer to offer services to people for free, they claim — falsely — that this will give people less choice," Zuckerberg wrote in a Times of India op-ed this week. "Instead of recognizing that Free Basics fully respects net neutrality, they claim — falsely — the exact opposite."