Facebook has partnered with BSNL to set up 100 Wi-Fi hotspots, giving a fillip to Government of India’s ambitious drive to make India digital. Facebook will also spend Rs. 5 crores for the upkeep of these 100 Wi-Fi hotspots that will be spread across rural areas of western and southern India.

The Managing Director and Chairperson at BSNL – Anupam Shrivastava said that Facebook will sponsor 100 Wi-Fi hotspots and will pay Rs. 5 lakh for the BSNL bandwidth for each hotspot per annum.

Trimax and Quad Zen will provide hardware for the venture that will include equipment and fibre deployment

Facebook has indicated that it will roll out the Wi-Fi by December 31st this year and consumers will get free internet for the first half an hour. The network will be capable of handling 2,000 connected devices simultaneously.

The initiative is to start off with 100 villages. At present under a pilot program, the arrangement is running in 25 villages in southern and western India. The partnership could be further expanded and extended from three to five years. However, there are skeptics who have started to question Facebook’s lofty intentions.

Experts say that though Facebook mentions that consumers will get the first half hour free, it is possible that it will offer its services for free past that time while charging for access to other services much akin to Internet.org or Free basics. It will violate the principles of Net Neutrality.

However, if the offer to provide whole internet free with no segregation of what data a consumer is consuming, it will a welcome initiative and help to spread the internet among the masses.

Earlier in September, Google had tied up with Indian Railways and RailTel to provide high-speed WiFi coverage in 400 stations across India. More than 100 stations will have this facility by the end of 2016.