FACEBOOK ROLLS OUT FREE WEB

India gets free internet and messaging, non-video calls

Following the successful blanketing of most of the African continent with Facebook’s free internet service, Zuckerberg has announced the roll out of similar coverage for South America and Mexico, and the Indian sub-continent.

By targeting countries where internet communications are still relatively expensive, Facebook is hoping to become the de facto home network for billions of users. Most people in these communities use smartphones and tablets rather than laptops and PCs, and the free internet bandwidth is geared for mobile use.

Facebook understands that its members are the product, and where data airtime is a significant cost for users they will restrict their interaction with the network to only the most essential occasions, or where they have access to free Wi-Fi or a community network.

The cost to Facebook of providing such wide-scale connectivity to its members is substantial, but Zuckerberg shrewdly recognizes the opportunity to expose more people more often to advertising targeted at the bottom of the pyramid. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but the payment with attention is subtle enough so that billions will think of it as a blessing.

For many users, ‘facenet’ is the comeuppance that mobile telecoms operators deserve. They’ve been gouging their customers for years with obscenely profitable data plans, that have no relation to operating costs whatsoever. The marginal cost of an extra megabyte of data is, in fact, zero.

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