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Facebook's Zuckerberg tackles telcos and terrorism

Matt Kapko | Feb. 24, 2016
During a Mobile World Congress keynote on Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed a variety of issues, including the company's controversial initiative, the future of online video and Apple's ongoing game of tug of war with the FBI.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the trip this week to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress 2016 for the third year in a row. Following his surprise appearance the previous evening during a Samsung presentation, where the exec focused on VR, Zuckerberg downplayed mobile carriers' fears about the Facebook's motivations for global connectivity, detailed his vision for the future of online video and voiced sympathy for Apple in its ongoing legal battle with the FBI

Zuckerberg also criticized the mobile telecommunications industry for positioning 5G, the next generation of wireless technology, as a tool to connect the Internet of Things (IoT). Expanding network capacity for IoT is important, he said, but people should come first. "It's kind of crazy that we're sitting here in 2016 and four billion people in the world don't have access to the Internet," he said at the start of his keynote on Monday. "It would be possible for this industry to continue growing and making a lot of money while doubling down on faster connections for rich people. What I personally hope is that we don't just do that, but also finish the job of making sure that everyone in the world gets Internet access." 

Zuckerberg on, an initiative that includes Facebook's various efforts to make Internet connectivity more widely available, came under fire as of late. Earlier this month, telecom regulators in India banned the company's Free Basics program, which gives people in developing countries no-cost access to online basics, including, and forced it to halt its rollout in the country due to potential net neutrality violations.

Zuckerberg called the ban "disappointing for the mission" but said Facebook understands the same models won't work in every country. "We've continued rolling out Free Basics in other countries" and "in India, we're going to focus on different programs," he said. "In the first year and a half, [Free Basics] has helped 19 million people get on the Internet that haven't had Internet before. Facebook isn't a company that hits a roadblock and then gives up."

Free Basics, which is currently available in 38 countries, is Facebook's first program, and it's currently working to develop solar-powered planes, satellites and lasers that can beam Internet access from 60,000 feet to remote or otherwise unconnected regions around the world.

Facebook vs. mobile network operators

Zuckerberg downplayed the ongoing tensions between his company and the major cellular network operators. "While there might be tension in any relationship, I think this is a much more symbiotic one than a tense one," he said. "Our apps and the other apps that folks are building are driving a lot of the demand for what people want to consume on networks. Consumers don't pay to use Facebook, they pay for the data they're consuming through operators." 


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