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Facebook Returns To India With WiFi, But This Time It's Not Free Facebook has been in touch with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to commercially launch its Express WiFi programme in India

By Ritu Kochar

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After its unsuccessful last attempt, Facebook is back in India carrying, the torch of internet. Only this time, Facebook isn't feeling so generous!

A disappointed Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said after his much anticipated and much endorsed Free Basics programme, "While we're disappointed with the decision, I want to personally communicate that we are committed to keep working to break down barriers to connectivity in India and around the world." Taking his initiative forward to spread internet in rural India, Facebook has been in touch with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to commercially launch its Express WiFi programme and expand its reach.

With Express WiFi, Facebook has been working with carriers, internet service providers, and local entrepreneurs to help expand connectivity to underserved locations around the world. This serves a two-fold purpose – first, rural areas get access to affordable internet; and second, local entrepreneurs help provide quality internet access to their neighbors and make a steady income. They have already completed a pilot rollout of 125 rural public WiFi hotspots in a tie-up with state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam.

"We are testing Express WiFi program in India that allows customers to purchase fast, reliable and affordable data packages from their local ISP to access the Internet via local hotspots," a Facebook India spokesperson said according to media reports.

The ban imposed on the grounds of net neutrality proved to be a major setback for Facebook CEO, who had lobbied hard for the program as part of a campaign to expand Internet access in developing countries. However, their comeback with Express WiFi won't be free like last time. Reports say that Bharat Sanchar Nigam may deploy the offer with the assistance of the technologies Facebook's developed for its Telecom Infra Project.

"Facebook is investing in the development of the connectivity ecosystem by providing techno-commercial assistance to local ISP partners and entrepreneurs," a person associated with the matter said.

For the rural WiFi, Facebook has even developed customised software suited to the needs of local entrepreneurs which will help them bridge the internet gap in India.

Ritu Kochar

Former Staff, Entrepreneur India

Ritu used to work as a Feature writer for Entrepreneur India.
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