After burning its fingers with Free Basics, prominent social networking giant Facebook is testing a new model of public WiFi services offering quality internet access in rural India. Express WiFi is in negotiation with carriers, Internet service providers, and other local entrepreneurs to expand connectivity to remote locations which have not been covered by the web.
Facebook has revealed that the company’s Express WiFi is live in India and it is in talks with carriers to expand to locations, which are poorly connected with the web. However, the company has not elaborated if the service provided will be limited to a few websites like nits free basics or it will provide full access.
Express WiFi will help local entrepreneurs make a steady income by giving quality internet access to their neighbors working with local Internet service providers using the software provided by Facebook to connect with like-minded communities.
Facebook is also experimenting with products like laser drones to provide better connectivity for users across the globe. When contacted Facebook Spokesperson said –
Currently, we are working with ISP and operator partners to test Express Wi-Fi with public Wi-Fi deployments in multiple pilot sites. This solution empowers ISPs, operators, and local entrepreneur-retailers to offer quality internet access to their village, town or region.
The spokesperson further commented that they 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.
Express Wi-Fi customers can purchase fast, reliable and affordable data packs via digital vouchers to access the Internet on the Express Wi-Fi network.
The US-based company had to pull out its controversial Free Basics program in India after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India barred it from charging differently for Internet access based on content. However, Facebook is running the program in many countries and was launched in India in partnership with Reliance Communication as Internet.org.
The program was later reintroduced as Free Basics and provided basic web access to consumers in partnership with telecom operators. Skeptics were highly critical of the service and said that it violated the principles of net neutrality which call for equal treatment for all contents and internet traffic.