Written by Staff Writer
09 Aug, 2016 | 3:15 pm
Facebook’s Express Wi-Fi program to provide people with internet so they can use Facebook is taking shape in India as we speak. The program lets phone owners in India purchase data from local internet service providers.
Effectively, Facebook is providing software that helps local ISPs and entrepreneurs sell and provide internet service in rural areas, which can be accessed via public Wi-Fi hotspots. Express Wifi has already completed a trial period in the country with a local state-run telecom and about 125 rural Wi-Fi hotspots, according to the BBC.
This is Facebook’s second attempt to provide connections for one of the world’s most populous and fast-growing countries. The key difference: this time, internet access isn’t being given away.
The social network tried to offer internet in India for free starting last year with a program called Free Basics. However, the company faced substantial regulatory roadblocks and Free Basics was eventually banned by India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority in February.
Because Free Basics provides access to certain websites, namely facebook.com, for free, it technically violates the tenets of net neutrality. That practice, known as “zero rating,” has become a popular way to win over customers, but it may run afoul of net neutrality principles by way of incentivizing people to use some services over others.
If access to Facebook is provided for free in India, the logic goes, there is no hope for a competing social network to grow so long as it consumes mobile data. Some believe the net neutrality argument with regards to Free Basics is a deflection, and that some government regulators in fact want to spy on citizens, which Facebook would not allow, according to Reuters.
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