Facebook opens up Internet.org to all mobile operators

A year after Facebook introduced Internet.org, the company is making it easier for any mobile operator to sign up to offer free internet access to basic online services.

Internet.org first launched in Africa, but has since expanded and is now available in 17 countries — including countries with very large populations like India — spanning three continents, but only worked with select operators. Facebook is now attempting to woo more mobile operators to join the program, announcing a dedicated portal through which operators can sign up. It’s also courting them with statistics — like the fact that “Internet.org brings new users onto mobile networks on average over 50 percent faster after launching free basic services, and more than half … are paying for data and accessing the internet within the first 30 days” — suggesting that Internet.org can not only change people’s lives, but improve operators’ bottom lines.

Internet.org can improve operator’s bottom lines

As a nod to the raging net neutrality debate and accusations that Internet.org allowed access to only preferred websites, Facebook also made sure to reiterate in its blog post that its goal was to “work with as many mobile operators and developers as possible to extend the benefits of connectivity.” Theoretically, this means that any developer would be able to create services offered through Internet.org — although questions about how much this will cost, or what regulations developers will have to work around, remain as yet unanswered.

Facebook is pushing to get even more of the world’s population connected to the internet, and thereby connected to Facebook. But it will be interesting to see how many mobile operators take the bait and how the company handles the regulations that may be imposed on it by countries like India, especially with Google’s Project Loon offering up some stiff competition.

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