Mark Zuckerberg wishes to bring the Internet to the four billion people around the world who do not have access to it. The chief of Facebook has implemented this project called Internet.org, rebranded last month as Freenet, in over 25 countries, but cannot seem to make an impact in India due to the service provider and what the term “free” really means. Facebook is learning that it is going to take more than just good intentions and technological savvy to truly achieve universal Internet access.
Freenet is provided through the Indian cellphone carrier Reliance Communications. One shop owner took down all advertisements for Freenet once he learned of its purpose, stating that “Reliance connection is very patchy.” He would have to try very hard in order to sell the product, especially because even without Freenet, Reliance has a very slow network and their customer service is unreliable. Freenet proposes free services such as “news articles, health and job information and a text-only version of Facebook.” These limitations are to minimize data use and cost to Reliance. Facebook stated that the main goal behind all of this is “to show people what the Internet is all about.”
Many people in India believe that if Facebook is trying to bring free Internet to the world, then they should be making the whole Internet free for a short period of time. However, that is extremely expensive and it is impossible to make the whole Internet free to all users. Most cellular service in India is prepaid, therefore most of the devices these people are using do not have Internet capability and they are the one’s speaking out about what should be completely free with Facebook’s program through Reliance.
Chris Daniels, who leads Freenet, restated that Facebook was attempting to “reach people who were new to the Internet.” The company is investing a very large amount of their money into other aspects of the project such as attempting to deliver cheap Wi-Fi to remote villages and beam Internet service from drones. Daniels also said that, “connectivity is something that improves people’s live. It’s an enabler for people to be able to help themselves find jobs, improve their health situation, and improve their education for themselves and their children.”
Although many citizens in India may believe that this is a ploy to gain more Facebook users and generate their own personal business strategies, the company is truly trying to reach out and touch the world in a big way. By allowing free Wi-Fi connection across the global there are endless possibilities for not only these new Internet users but internationally as well. There are so many more opportunities for trading of resources and goods from country to country, and even more job opportunities. Freenet is attempting to revolutionize the way we view the Internet, and once India see’s that they are entering a place where Internet accessibility is pertinent they will see just how drastically this project can change lives.
New York Times: http://nyti.ms/1kFjJUc