Again with the cheap internet access in India, Facebook?
This time with Wi-Fi, a state-owned telco on board and maybe the return of Free Basics
Facebook's trying to bring affordable internet access to rural India again.
The company has dangled a programme called “Express Wi-fi” at Internet.org, the platform it used for its Free Basics programme. India banned that service on net neutrality grounds. The Register notes that the "Express WiFi" page at Internet.org offers a link that publishers can use to apply for inclusion in Free Basics.
Now the Economic Times of India quotes a Facebook spokesperson saying words to the effect that the company has teamed with state-owned carrier Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd to test an affordably priced Wi-Fi service for rural areas. The report says the service is called Express WiFi.
Bharat Sanchar Nigam is well-placed to help: it boasts that it reaches 580,000 villages and 7,330 cities and can provide 43.74 million phone lines.
The report suggests that Express WiFi won't be free and that Bharat Sanchar Nigam may deploy the offer with the assistance of the technologies Facebook has developed for its Telecom Infra Project. Bharat Sanchar Nigam is not listed in the project's membership roster, but the project welcomes inquiries.
When India ruled against Free Basics, Facebook said it would not try to provide the service again. This time around, the free part appears to be gone. But there's no word on whether sites will be zero-rated under the new scheme.
The Register has requested further details from Facebook and will update this story if it offers us any useful information. ®