When Facebook launched its Free Basics zero-rating program to get people more connected, it faced a lot of criticism because some say it was just a “user growth initiative” rather than really offering people free Internet. Now they have quietly launched a new program and app called Express Wi-Fi to help people in developing countries connect to faster Internet but this time they’ll have to pay for it and they’ll be able to access whatever they want and not just the low-bandwidth ones that Facebook approved previously.

The Express Wi-Fi app lets users buy data packs and look for nearby hotspots that are part of Facebook’s distributed Wi-Fi network. The app makes it easier for you to sign up, look for the nearby zones, see the data packs packages, check your account balance, and if you’re running low on data packs, find where you can reload. The program is currently live in five countries including Indonesia and Kenya and lets local business owners operate Wi-Fi hotspots for these Express Wi-Fi users.

This seems like a better strategy than the Free Basics which got criticism for basically violating the rules of net neutrality since they only choose which sites users can access. And since it’s not hiding behind philanthropical reasons and is actually a business, then there should be no issues with wanting to get people connected since it’s a full, unrestricted version of the Internet that you’re giving them.

Facebook has been focusing on monetizing the international market, despite the connectivity issues users face. They launched a region-specific low-bandwidth ad unit and it seems to be paying off as average revenue per user has grown in “the rest of the world”. Let’s see how big they will be able to expand this Express Wi-Fi program.

VIA: Tech Crunch


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