Just as the storm kicked by the Facebook Freebasics settled down, the company has already drawn plans to come up with yet another initiative. Facebook is reportedly in talks with ISP’s to commercially introduce its Express Wi-Fi program in India. The social media giant has already completed the pilot rollout by introducing 125 rural public Wi-Fi hotspots by teaming up with the BSNL.
The initiative by Mark Zuckerberg is aimed at enabling affordable broadband in the rural areas by partnering with the local ISP’s. This is what a Facebook India spokesperson had to say, “We are testing Express Wi-Fi program in India currently that allows customers to purchase fast, reliable and affordable data packages from their local ISP to access the Internet via local hotspots.”
In the meanwhile, Facebook refrained from naming the service providers concerned with the Wi-Fi program. Furthermore, Facebook also claimed that the Wi-Fi hotspots will provide broadband Internet within the local areas thus eventually helping out the rural folks get connected. Google has also recently completed a similar initiative of providing high-speed Internet across Railway Stations in India.
That apart, I can’t help but be skeptical of the initiative, especially after Facebook recently pulled out of India post the Free Basics fiasco. I just hope that Facebook is crystal clear with its ambitions regarding the Wi-Fi and will refrain from offering zero-rated services in any form. The Internet penetration still languishes at 34.8-percent while the developed countries like the US have a way higher penetration percentile of 88.5-percent. Even when it comes to the Internet speeds India settles down at the bottom with an average speed of 2.5Mb/s. So, it’s a great initiative from Facebook to help India connect to the web, assuming the intentions are true as well.