With Express Wifi, Facebook says it’s working with “carriers, internet service providers, and local entrepreneurs to help expand connectivity to underserved locations.” The company is likely starting with India to make up for the drama over Free Basics.
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Unlike Free Basics, Express Wifi isn’t, well, free. Instead, the program allows customers to purchase affordable data packs for access via Wifi, a spokesperson told Mashable India. The point is that everyone involved in the process, including local ISPs, operators, and retailers can have a sustainable economic model, and scale to “bring all of India online.”
While at first glance, paying money isn’t as fun as free internet, it’s likely a change for the better. Critics of Free Basics argued that it split India’s web users into people who can only view what Facebook determines worthy, and people who can afford the full-fledged ‘real’ internet. Having a entry cost, however small, helps Facebook maintain a sustainable model to expand the program elsewhere.
That said, there’s no word on pricing for Express Wifi or how widely it’s being rolled out so far. Facebook says it’s still a test, but you can likely expect the service to expand to other regions soon.