Facebook’s latest effort to provide people with internet so they can become Facebook users is taking shape as Express Wifi, a new program that lets phone owners in India purchase data from local internet service providers. Effectively, Facebook is providing software that helps local ISPs and entrepreneurs sell and provide internet service in rural areas, which can be accessed via public Wi-Fi hotspots. Express Wifi has already completed a trial period in the country with a local state-run telecom and about 125 rural Wi-Fi hotspots, according to the BBC.
Facebook is probably hoping that users who first encounter the web via a Facebook initiative will be more likely to become users of the social network – rather than a competitor – according to Ian Fogg, an analyst at IHS Technology.”In emerging economies, Facebook is pursuing an intervention strategy to increase the pace of internet and online usage because this will also raise the addressable market for Facebook,” he told the BBC.
This is Facebook’s second attempt to provide connections for one of the world’s most populous and fast-growing countries. The key difference: this time, internet access isn’t being given away. The social network tried to offer internet in India for free starting last year with a program called Free Basics. However, the company faced substantial regulatory roadblocks and Free Basics was eventually banned by India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority in February.