Facebook is testing a new model of public Wi-Fi called “Express Wi-Fi” for rural parts in India in order to offer quality internet access. This is despite the heat they faced due to supposedly violating the countries laws on net neutrality with the “Free Basics” programme.
If you recall, Facebook’s “Free Basics programme” was launched in India in partnership with Reliance Communications as Internet.Org. and later rebranded as Free Basics. It was aimed at providing basic Internet access to people in partnership with telecom operators.
It was then scrapped in early February this year after Trai, a telecom regulator barred operators from charging discriminatory rates for Internet access based on content.
As seen on Facebook’s Internet.org page, the “Express Wi-Fi” programme is now live in India. The page goes on to explain that they are working with carriers, internet service providers and local entrepreneurs to help expand connectivity to underserved locations around the world. It also adds that they are expanding the service to other regions soon as well.
However, there was no indication whether the Wi-Fi provided by Facebook would provide access to websites such as Facebook’s Free Basics, or actually provide full access to websites.
According to a Facebook spokesperson, it was confirmed that the company is indeed wirking in conjunction with internet service providers, although they did not elaborate on the locations of the tests or who the partners would be.
With the new Express WiFi, local entrepreneurs would be empowered to provide quality internet access to their neighbors, whilst also making a steady income. They would be able to use software provided by Facebook to connect their communities, the page went on to say.
Furthermore, Express Wi-Fi customers could easily purchase data packs that are fast, reliable and affordable by obtaining digital vouchers. These can then be used to access the Internet on the Express Wi-Fi network.
The spokesperson further added that they focus on building a sustainable economic model for all stakeholders involved, so that local retailer entrepreneurs, ISPs, operators and Facebook can continue to invest in and operate lasting connectivity. They also believe a sustainable economic model is the one which can scale to bring all of India online.