Meta is ending its low-cost WiFi program for developing countries

Deepak Gupta February 1, 2022
Updated 2022/02/01 at 9:26 AM

goal is Final its Express Wi-Fi program designed to provide low-cost internet in developing countries through partnerships with local communities, mobile operators and businesses. Launched in 2016, was not free like the Free Basics program, owned by Facebook’s Meta, overturned by Indian courts for violating net neutrality. Instead, it’s designed to be cheap, starting at around 15 cents for 100MB or $5 for 20GB.

Facebook has partnered with satellite companies, ISPs and others in places like India, South Africa and the Philippines. Retailers were able to sell hotspots at reasonable prices decided by them and the operator instead of Facebook. Meta would, of course, benefit from gaining access to new customers who no doubt expected to create Facebook accounts. As with Google, most of the company’s recent growth has come from developing countries, where people are accessing the internet for the first time.

Recently, Wall Street Journal reported that failures in Meta’s free internet services were creating unwanted charges for users in countries like Pakistan. Meta would also be favoring its own content on its free data Discover service over other sites.

Meta said that while it is winding down Express Wi-Fi, it is focusing on other projects around Internet access. “While we are completing our work on this program to focus on developing other projects, we remain committed to working with partners across the telecommunications ecosystem to deliver better connectivity,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement. Fi’s partners “minimize the impact on your business while keeping networks running.”

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