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Internet.org hopes to reach 100 countries in a year, up from six now

Matt Hamblen | March 4, 2015
But success will depend on carrier support.

Daniels said carriers are central to that effort. After early trials, Internet.org also learned how to pare back its free Internet offering to avoid network limitations and other carrier concerns. "One of the biggest objections with the initial test partners was around the sustainability of the model with free full-featured Facebook," he said. "We listened and...took out photos and videos and left some basic functionality. If they want richer features, they have to buy a data plan."

As a result, Daniels said, the rate of Internet adoptions has still gone up by 40% in early country rollouts.

Users of Internet.com can download an Android app to use it or browse on the Web to find it. There's no iOS app, since iPhone and iPad users aren't typically seeking free Internet. "IOS is not a focus for us," Daniels said.

Daniels showed off the Internet.org interface used in Columbia on his smartphone, and it was essentially a list of different services that users can click on for further information. While the services vary in each locale, the top line item in Columbia on Internet.org is "Facebook-free data," followed by Wikipedia, then BabyCenter & Mama (for early childhood information) and other items such as AccuWeather.

Daniels also said that Internet.org is eager to continue to work with Google, especially for search with free Internet service. "We're happy to have Google search as a free basic service," he said.

While Internet.org has relied on carriers to provide infrastructure for free Internet, work at Facebook continues on alternative provisioning technologies such as lasers, drones and satellites, Daniels said. "We continue to work on these technologies and the reason is to reduce the cost of connectivity by an order of magnitude so connectivity can reach 100% [globally] in the next few years."

While Daniels wouldn't share details, he said that Facebook is "investing deeply" in Internet.org. "it's not costly, but we're [driven] by our mission to give people the power to share and make the world open and connected."

Once more countries are on board, Daniels said the free basic service model should continue. "We'd like to see it ongoing. We'd like to see free basic services always available. Operators will leave it on only if it continues to benefit their business."

 

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