It is here. Facebook could not pass through the barriers erected before it when it arrived with the idea of Free Basics in India, but the world’s most influential social media giant has found a new way to tap into the fastest growing Internet market. Facebook has now announced that it has started testing a service called Express Wifi in India. The company, in a post on the official website of its ambitious internet.org project
, said that they are working with “carriers, internet service providers, and local entrepreneurs”. They said that their objective is to expand Internet connectivity to “underserved locations”.
A Wifi tower of Facebook Express Wifi photographed here in an undisclosed location. Hindu BusinessLine
Facebook does not mention the names of the carriers, service providers or entrepreneurs. What it says is that Express Wifi enables local entrepreneurs to earn by providing quality internet access to their neighbours.
The service was actually launched sometime in September this year in North India, though the exact locations are not clear. When Facebook tried to enter India with Free Basics, it was met with opposition from those advocating net neutrality, including start-ups
, and columnists
In layman’s terms, Free Basics was not actually free. It provided only a very select set of websites for no charge. Users were required to pay for accessing more websites. In other words, Free Basics was like satellite television – some channels are free but the better ones come for a price. Zuckerberg really, really wanted to find a way for Free Basics in India and even held a luncheon
for select MPs who later praised his initiative. But eventually Facebook had to apply the brakes
on Free Basics in India. On the other hand, Express Wifi works in a different way. Mashable reports that Facebook has addressed the flags raised with Free Basics and actually opened the entire Internet.
All that users have to do is pay a fee to use Express Wifi. That fee is in the form of data packs.
According to a report published in September, the packages start for as low as Rs.10. It’s success or failure in India will determine Facebook’s strategy of using this in other countries. “When people are able to purchase fast, affordable and reliable internet, they’re able to explore the range of information it has to offer including news, education, health, job postings, entertainment, and communication tools like Facebook,” reads the post on internet.org. Facebook, however, did not mention the fee or the areas where the testing is on. What is interesting is that Express Wifi is receiving support from some of the voices that criticised Free Basics because of the change made by Facebook.