Despite its name, Free Basics isn't exactly a service that offers free internet. Instead, the service simply hopes to win the approval of wireless carriers so that they could offer certain internet services along with their data plans. Among these services include online news, health information, job leads, and even Facebook. The idea is to have the data plans offer these services without counting against the data allotment of the user.
For its part, the FCC has been reported to show an interest in opening up spectrum and change state laws so that low-income and rural citizens can get connected as well. Meanwhile, the partnership could violate net neutrality and could end up like what happened in India, where the program was ruled that it infringed net neutrality. The FCC has responded to these concerns, saying that they were still "trying to make sure" the full implications of zero-rating were understood.
According to the anonymous sources, Facebook has been hoping to develop relationships with the smaller carriers so that they can go beyond the idea that Free Basics is anti-competitive. It has also been reported to not attempt to sign any deals with larger carriers such as T-Mobile or AT&T. But there is also reason for these smaller carriers to be skeptical of this partnership as it could trigger some legal and regulatory costs by the FCC. Ultimately, the ball is in the FCC's court and will depend on how it decides about Free Basics.
Facebook's Free Basics program currently operates in 49 countries abroad.
Source: Fierce Wireless, The Washington Post