A year after Free Basics was shot down by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India due to pressure from various public groups as it was considered a threat to net neutrality, Facebook is trying to dive into the Indian internet ecosystem with Express Wi-Fi.
The company has been testing its Express Wi-Fi service with multiple internet service providers in India for several months now and hopes to roll out its service that’ll allow users to access the internet via local hotspots after purchasing low-cost data packs.
“With Express Wi-Fi, we’re working with carriers, internet service providers, and local entrepreneurs to help expand connectivity to underserved locations around the world. We’re currently live in India, and are expanding to other regions soon,” the company stated on its internet.org page.
Facebook is already running trial operations in over hundred villages where they’re offering public hotspots for data packs as low as Rs.10.
India is a prime market for Facebook as it has the second highest number of active users at 142 million.
“Express Wi-Fi empowers local entrepreneurs to help provide quality internet access to their neighbours 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,” the company added.
Facebook Has Both Criticism and Competition in India
Wi-Fi express is a part of Facebook’s Internet.org mission to help connect the world with the internet, especially in areas where internet facilities have been unavailable till date.
Free Basics, which was also a part of Internet.org, gathered a huge backlash from the internet community of India as it only gave access to sites selected by Facebook and was considered a threat to a free and neutral internet in the country.
“When people are able to purchase fast, affordable and reliable internet, they’re able to explore the range of information it has to offer including news, education, health, job postings, entertainment, and communication tools like Facebook,” the company stated.
Earlier it was also reported by several publications that Facebook’s Wi-Fi service might come to Indian Railways but with the social media giant charging for its service in a sphere where Google is already providing free internet in association with RailTel, it seems highly unlikely that a headway will be made.
This will be Facebook’s second attempt to bring free internet to India, and only time and the terms and conditions of their service will tell whether or not the said ‘rebranding’ of Free Basics will work in India or not.