As with any tech trade show, Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress sometimes wanders away from the core subject matter and into things that affect it or bleed over into it. In the mobile world, content providers, app developers and big names like Facebook often pop up, being fairly integral to the shaping of the mobile world. Such was the case when Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at MWC for a keynote speech. One topic at the speech was the recent failure of Facebook’s Free Basics program in India due to net neutrality violations, as well as future plans for the service and details of current services.
Zuckerberg said that a key part of Facebook’s mission was to work on connecting the world. On the subject of Free Basics being kicked out of India, he said that the company came away with the lesson that “every country is different”. He went on to state that Facebook has many initiatives in the works that are aimed at connecting the parts of the world that have no internet access and that Free Basics is only their first try. He also made a point of the fact that the service has already made the internet available to roughly 19 million people who would otherwise still be offline. These efforts join projects from Microsoft and Google that are planned to do things like add Wi-Fi access to railroad stations, utilize unused television broadcasting spectrum and send free-floating balloons overhead, carrying the internet to the populace.
On continued plans for the service, Zuckerberg said that things will continue as usual in most of the service areas for Free Basics. In India, however, Facebook will begin working with telecoms and industry regulators to bring down infrastructure and operating costs. The idea is to pass the savings down to customers and make internet access more affordable for the whole population. The somewhat controversial service presents a walled garden of sorts, giving users access to low-bandwidth services and sources of revenue for Facebook in order to allow them to offer the service for free. As such, despite a seemingly humanitarian mission, future roadblocks are a distinct possibility for the service.