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Facebook, Zuckerberg rally partners to connect the whole wide world

Mark Hachman | Aug. 22, 2013
Facebook, Opera, Qualcomm, Samsung and others said Tuesday night that they're setting out on a quest to bring the Internet to remainder of the world that doesn't yet have access.

The nuts and bolts of enabling Internet access
On the Facebook Web site, an unsigned memopresumably written by Zuckerberg himself) posited that connectivity was a human right, a common refrain among the Internet.org partners.

"Universal internet access will be the next great industrial revolution," Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop added, in a statement.

But how to do it? Zuckerberg suggested several methods: network extension technology, to bridge wireless networks with in-house wired networks, eliminating the need for more wireless infrastructure; edge caching, essentially placing the most frequently-accessed data on the edge of the network to be quickly and cheaply accessed; and to use "white space" spectrum to provide greater connectivity.

Facebook also hopes to cut data usage through such technologies as compression and by simply encouraging developing nations to share text, rather than photos. Facebook alreasy has a Facebook for Every Phone technology for feature phones, and the company said it hopes to cut down the bandwidth required by its Android app from its current size of 12 MB per day to about 1 MB per day,

Finally, Facebook hopes that it might be able to subsidzize the cost of some data in countries if users use it for Facebook, and maybe use Wi-Fi as a hedge against wireless costs.

Over time, the partners will work to bring the carriers into the fold, as well as NGOs and other policy makers. Zuckerberg has been instrumental in leading the fight for immigration reform, allowing more workers to come to the U.S. via an advocacy site called FWD.us.

It's likely, over time, that Internet.org may indeed effect change. Any gains it makes will most likely be incremental, however, in parts of the world often ignored by the West. But it's a noble goal, and one that makes business sense for those involved--as the Zuckerberg memo proves. Maybe all of the planet's ills can't be solved by giving the world a smartphone. But some of them? If Zuckerberg is willing to take money out of his pocket to do so, it's tough to say no.

 

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