Egypt Suspends Facebooks Free Basics Internet

internet-org-app11.jpgFacebooks Free Basics service, which offers free, limited access to the internet, has been shut down in Egypt for unclear reasons, leaving around 3m Egyptians who used the service without the ability to get online.

The service, which Facebook has launched in over 30 countries, was introduced in Egypt two months ago by mobile carrier Etisalat. Around 3m users had signed up for the service, including over 1m people who previously didnt use the internet, representing a considerable shift in Egypts online population.

“Were disappointed that Free Basics is no longer available in Egypt as of 30 December,” said a Facebook spokesperson. “We are committed to expanding internet access to the unconnected in Egypt and around the world, and hope to resolve this situation soon.”

The reason behind the shutdown is unclear, but some have pointed to the upcoming fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising that forced then-President Hosni Mubarak out of office. Social media services, including Facebook, were used during the uprising to help protesters organise and communicate.

Facebook has faced some criticism for the Free Basics program, which is part of its larger Internet.org initiative aimed at connecting the next billion people to the internet. The Free Basics app and website enable users to access certain parts of the internet without incurring data charges on their phone.

While many have celebrated the attempt at bringing the internet to a new wave of the global population, net neutrality advocates have criticised the fact that Facebook retains control over what services and content can be accessed through the Free Basics portal.