With the aim to provide internet access to the whole country, Facebook recently tested “Express Wi-Fi” in the rural regions of India. This mission is to bring affordable internet connection in the rural regions of the country. For a country with 600,000 villages, it was Mr.Modi’s dream to connect India on a digital platform and enable internet access to every person in the country.
Even though Facebook received a lot of criticism about the “Free Basics” program, which, eventually was revoked in India due to the violation of net neutrality, Facebook came up with its new plan to provide affordable internet access to rural India and with a mission to extend the connectivity to undeserved locations around the world.
The up-side of Express Wi-Fi
According to Internet.org page, Facebook “Express Wi-Fi” is live in India and is working with carriers, internet service providers and local entrepreneurs to help the neighbourhood utilize the internet. The local entrepreneurs here play a major role where they purchase the hardware that supports them to hotspot internet and make it available to its neighbourhood. But, Facebook hasn’t addressed anything regarding the access to the websites, whether it will be unbiased or will have a restricted access.
Express Wi-Fi aims to support the local entrepreneurs by providing steady internet connection so that they use it to connect to their business networks or communities. It empowers them in earning a steady income by providing internet access to others as well. And it is also noted that, the local service providers and mobile operators are able to use the software provided by Facebook in order to connect with their communities.
The Flip Side:
Though Express Wi-Fi aims in connecting the rural villages in India and giving access to be connected on a digital platform, they still worry on the point of restricted access as there has been no press release on it by the spokesperson who addressed the launch. When ‘Free Basics’ by Facebook was launched, it was reported that 15 million people came forward to use it, out of which 1 million were from India. On the contrary, Buzzfeed released its reports stating that most users from the 1 million weren’t first time users but were those who were already subscribed to data plan and used ‘Free Basics’ to access Facebook when they exhaust their data credit.
When ‘Free Basics’ was put down in India, Google partnered with Indian Railways to set up 400 Wi-Fi hotspots by 2017 out of which 100 were set up in 2016 in all the major cities. These Wi-Fi connections were designed in such a way that it provided free access to all the websites with high speed. And it was reported that, Google’s Wi-Fi project was highly welcomed by the people in the country with respect to ‘Free Basics’ by Facebook.
Will Facebook’s ‘Express Wi-Fi’ be a competitor to Google’s Railwire? Will Facebook succeed to withstand in the Indian market? It’s debateable.
Collaborator: Roshan Dhanasekar