Facebook has made a major breakthrough through their internet.org initiative.
Internet.org is a Facebook-led initiative bringing together technology leaders, non-profits and local communities to connect the two thirds of the world that doesn’t have Internet access.
The new developments, which involve a partnership with French Eutelsat, means that most of sub-Saharan Africa will suddenly be able to access the internet. Best of all, this internet will be completely free. It will be beamed to some of Africa’s most remote parts, using a satellite connection. The internet connections will start to get transmitted to parts of sub-Saharan Africa that are still offline by 2016.
Through the initiative, Facebook will allow access to a number of different services. These include Facebook itself, health, news and weather services. However, at present, the vast majority of connections have to be made using a mobile or fixed telecom network. These networks do not offer sufficient coverage, and certainly not in areas that are sparsely populated at best.
The initiative is set to go live during the second part of 2016. At that point, Eutelsat and Facebook will use some of the AMOS-6 capacity. AMOS-6 is an Israeli satellite that belongs to Spacecom. AMOS-6 will be launched towards the end of 2015. This capacity will then be used so that smartphones in parts of Southern, Eastern and Western Africa will be able to access the internet.
In total, some 14 countries will be able to access the internet, which are in some of the populated parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The news comes following a rumor that Facebook would no longer invest in a building project for its own satellite. Doing so would have cost the company $1 billion, which it wasn’t willing to pay. At the same time, however, Facebook clearly did not want to give up on this project either, as can be seen in a statement of the head of internet.org, Chris Daniels.
Facebook’s mission is to connect the world and we believe that satellites will play an important role in addressing the significant barriers that exist in connecting the people of Africa. We are looking forward to partnering with Eutelsat on this project and investigating new ways to use satellites to connect people in the most remote areas of the world more efficiently.
The internet.org initiative has not been popular yet. Many critics suggest that Facebook will make so-called ‘net neutrality’ impossible, as people will be able to access so many services for free.
Facebook’s internet.org initiative has come under fire, with critics saying it favors Facebook over rival services and violates the principles of “net neutrality” by providing some services for free. In fact, in May, an open letter was written to Facebook by a consortium of advocacy groups.
It is our belief that Facebook is improperly defining net neutrality in public statements and building a walled garden in which the world’s poorest people will only be able to access a limited set of insecure websites and services.
The company rebranded itself last week, saying that their offerings are ‘free basics by Facebook’. It felt that this would make it clearer that internet.org is a project. Hence, it is separate from the overall Facebook service.
Meanwhile, Eutelsat already provides satellite coverage to Russia and Europe. They will open a new London office to deal with the African operations. Laurent Grimaldi, former head of Tiscali, will be leading this operation. An official statement has also been released by Michel de Rosen, chief executive for Eutelsat.
Eutelsat’s strong track record in operating High Throughput Satellite systems will ensure that we can deliver accessible and robust Internet solutions that get more users online and part of the Information Society.