In Summary
  • If you are an Airtel subscriber, you can access Facebook content for free from your mobile phone by visiting Freebasics.

  • Free access to internet content, thus argument goes, is simply a way of enslaving poor subscribers in developing economies onto a pre-selected and restricted internet experience.

Many readers of this column may not know it, but there is free Internet access in Kenya. 

You did not know that because you belong to a class of privileged users who can afford to pay for Internet service, however expensive it may be.

There is another category of Kenyans who do not enjoy the privilege of being able to pay for their monthly Internet access.  

All the Telco operators in Kenya target this group by offering free Internet service to them in one form or another – with the hope that they will eventually migrate onto the fully paid-up Internet.

They do this by exempting certain Internet websites from running down your Internet bundles in what has come to be known as "zero-rated" services. 

Facebook, one of the world’s most popular content sites, has come to exemplify zero-rated services.

If you are an Airtel subscriber, you can access Facebook content for free from your mobile phone by visiting Free Basics. This site offers rudimentary elements of Facebook at no charge, bundled together with a couple of other pre-selected free websites.

Orange, Equitel and Safaricom also have similar promotions that allow subscribers to access certain Internet content for free or at highly discounted rates. 

Is free access to Internet a blessing or a curse? Well, there are very strong views for and against this free-content arrangement. Those against it believe that it should not be encouraged since it enables telecommunications operators and content providers to be gate-keepers on the Internet. 

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