Since Facebook’s plan to provide access to some basic Internet services via its Free Basics program failed to gain attraction (or approval) in the country, the social media behemoth had decided to pivot. It had then taken on the ambitious task of providing free high-speed internet services to rural subscribers through minute data packages in India.
The social networking giant’s Internet.org website, however, now mentions that Facebook is currently testing a new model for public Wi-Fi deployments in underdeveloped areas of the country. Dubbed as ‘Express Wi-Fi’, the website states that the internet service is currently live in India and it is looking to expand the service to other regions soon. The company now reports that it is working with “carriers, internet service providers, and local entrepreneurs to help expand connectivity to underserved locations around the world.”
Express Wifi empowers local entrepreneurs to help provide quality internet access to their neighbors and make a steady income. Working with local internet service providers or mobile operators, they’re able to use software provided by Facebook to connect their communities,
reads the Internet.org website.
The development has been confirmed by a Facebook spokesperson but it hasn’t mentioned anything other than the already known facts. It didn’t even indicate whether the service being deployed will provide unlimited access or limit the same to a few websites, like the Free Basics program which had earlier been nixed for violating net neutrality terms in the country. The spokesperson also did not dispense any details on the location and partners which have been tapped for the test run of this project.
Commenting on the same, the spokesperson added,
We 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. We believe a sustainable economic model is the one which can scale to bring all of India online.
The company has already been working with telecom carriers, such as the state-owned BSNL, to set up basic infrastructure and provide the required bandwidth for over 125 rural areas. The reports further suggested that Facebook will rely upon 2.4 GHz unlicensed frequency band for the project and provide speeds of up to 2 Mbps to connect users in rural India.
If successfully deployed, this will enable the company to connect users to the service as well as entrepreneurs to these new users — making it relatively easy to manage and possibly scale their business models in the process. But if Facebook is acting on their free will and violating the terms of service in the country then it might face the wrath of Indian authorities yet again.