Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Facebook will increase free internet access in Sub-Saharan Africa

Facebook partners with satellite company to provide free internet access in Sub-Saharan Africa

Facebook, French-based satellite operator Eutelsat and Israel-based satellite operator Spacecom has signed an agreement to utilize the "entire broadband payload" of future AMOS-6 satellite to deliver free internet access to individuals and communities the large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. The satellite is scheduled to become operational in the second half of 2016. The move is part of Facebook's internet.org initiative of providing free internet to areas  with low internet penetration. Internet.org already has access in a handful of African countries, but the new satellite will increase coverage in Sub-Saharan Africa extensively.

Internet.org received criticism in India earlier this year for violating internet neutrality because it only allows free access to partner content providers. However, Facebook argues that it's better to have some internet connection than none at all, which I largely agree with. In an underdeveloped continent like Africa with as low as ~2% internet penetration in many countries, free access to internet apps such as better weather forecasts, easier communication, online market places and health advice could largely increase economic development and welfare, which is what Africa desperately needs, until the point where all Africans one day can afford a neutral internet source.

The price is paid by the providers of the free services (including the apps), which in return should expect enormous market shares in those geographies.


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