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How Facebook stumbled into India’s fight for net neutrality

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The fight for net neutrality has come to India. Last week, two companies withdrew from Facebook’s Internet.org project, citing neutrality concerns, and the remaining companies are facing mounting pressure to bail out. But while Internet.org has drawn most of the headlines in the US, it’s just one part of a much larger struggle in India, and one that could have serious consequences for the developing world at large.

The most recent outcry started not with Facebook, but with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (also known as TRAI). On March 30th, TRAI issued a white paper on internet regulation and asked for reactions from the public. The call for responses is part of the process for new telecom rules in India, akin to the FCC’s calls for comment, but this paper seemed designed to scare people off, stretching over 118 pages with confusing language and ominous suggestions for how telecoms might tame the web. The backlash was immediate. The TRAI paper is suggesting that each and every one of [the apps on your phone] needs to get a license to be used in India.

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