Facebook Reportedly Abandons Internet.org Satellites

Is space the final frontier for Facebook? Reports suggest it has abandoned satellite plans for Internet.org

Facebook has reportedly abandoned its plans to utilise satellites as part of its Internet.org initiative to deliver broadband services to some of the poorest parts of the world.

It comes as the social network’s dream faces growing opposition following arguments that it is creating a ‘walled garden’, and is in effect a monopoly that ignores the principles of net neutrality.

Final Frontier?

The protests are in part down to the way that Internet.org works. Essentially, Facebook partners with mobile network providers in the target country, and subscribers can then use those networks free of charge to access a fairly limited number of online services.

But in some hard to reach areas, Facebook was considering utilising satellites to expand broadband services beyond its current restricted areas. Indeed, in March last year, Mark Zuckerberg said the social network was investigating the possible use of drones, satellites and lasers to beam the Internet to the parts of the world without Internet access.

However, according the tech publication The Information, those satellites plans have now been shelved.

It cited a person with direct knowledge of the project and a person briefed about it as its source. It claimed that Facebook abandoned plans to spend as much as $1bn (£644m) to build and launch a satellite to provide Internet service in remote regions.

titan drone facebookFacebook has made no official comment on the matter, but if it has deemed that the satellite option too expensive, the company can still opt to use its drone fleet. Last year the social networking company beefed up its drone expertise with the purchase of a British aerospace company Ascenta.

The Information meanwhile also reported that Google has decided to scale back its “big investment” in satellites. That said, its SpaceX unit has reportedly just placed a request with the FCC to use spectrum for experiments with satellite communications. And Google is also currently experimenting with drones and indeed high altitude solar-powered balloons (Project Loon).

Walled Garden?

Mark Zuckerberg first launched the Internet.org scheme back in August 2013, with the aim to connect the unconnected parts of the world to the Internet.

So far, the Internet.org project has been rolled out in countries such as India, Zambia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Columbia, and there are thought to be about nine million people using the scheme.

Zuckerberg revealed in April that the scheme could be coming to Europe soon. He also denied at the time that the scheme compromises net neutrality, especially following protests against the scheme in countries such as India.

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