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Marketplace Morning Report

Facebook’s controversial plan to bring web to the world

Molly Wood and Austin Cross Jun 11, 2015
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Facebook wants to get the whole world on the web — for free. There must be a catch, you say? Never.

The social media giant recently nixed plans to launch a satellite that would have put millions of people on the grid. Despite this announcement, the site is still going full steam ahead on its mission to connect low-income countries to the information that so many of us take for granted.

The idea seems harmless enough, but it still has many critics worried. This is because users of the company’s Internet.org app will only have access to Facebook’s version of the internet.

Internet.org Vice President of Product Chris Daniels laid out the the company’s vision in an interview with Marketplace’s Molly Wood.

“Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected,”  he says, “and Internet.org’s mission is to bring the two-thirds of the world online who have never been online before.”

He says that Facebook wants to reach more of that population by using mobile infrastructure that’s already in place.

The business model is simple: local carrier partners pick up the tab for the data when users access a preselected list of sites. Users will have to pay their carriers if they want to see more of the Internet. Free sites offer resources on everything from prenatal care to job listings. Internet.org also features a messenger app provided by, who else, Facebook.

The project hasn’t always been welcomed with open arms; the company recently received backlash from Indian officials concerned about how much control Facebook has over the Web.

Daniels says this is the wrong way to look at it. “Our belief here is that the principles of net neutrality must coexist with programs that bring people online.”

In other words, if giving away free (albeit non-neutral) internet is wrong, they don’t want to be right.

Daniels maintains that Facebook’s not in it for the money. And, despite the controversy, he’s pretty upbeat about the hullabaloo.

“If it wasn’t impactful, there wouldn’t be skeptics,” he says.

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