Facebook-led project seeks Internet access for all

Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:36pm EDT
 
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By Sinead Carew

(Reuters) - Facebook Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg has enlisted Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Qualcomm Inc and other technology companies to help him in a project aimed at making Internet access affordable for the 5 billion people around the world who are not online.

The group, called internet.org, is the latest effort by an Internet company to seek to expand Web access to emerging economies. It follows a similar thrust by Facebook rival Google Inc, which uses everything from balloons to fiber connections to expand connectivity.

While short on specifics, Zuckerberg's group intends to explore everything from lower-cost smartphones and providing Internet access to underserved communities, to working out ways to reduce the amount of data downloads required to run mobile Internet applications such as Facebook.

Zuckerberg did not give an estimate on how much it would cost to connect the world's population to the Internet.

He said the key is to cut network operators' costs for providing data services so they can in turn lower the prices charged to consumers.

The 29-year-old who founded Facebook in his university dorm room said in a 10-page document released on Wednesday that he hopes the efficiency of data delivery will improve 100-fold in the next five to ten years.

Keith Mallinson, a longtime telecom industry analyst, said that while the concepts and technologies Zuckerberg cites could be viable, the commercial interests of big companies and government politics could create bigger obstacles.

"There has to be a lot of heavy lifting to make all these things happen and to coordinate them," said Mallinson, who founded research firm WiseHarbour.   Continued...

 
A man is silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo as he poses with an Dell laptop in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic