Facebook's Zuckerberg Wants Free Internet Worldwide

John Lister's picture

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg says that a basic Internet service should be free of charge to everyone. He likened it to phone services where calling 911 (used for emergencies) carries no cost.

Zuckerberg discussed the topic in a Wall Street Journal article in which he promoted Internet.org, a project trying to expand Internet access around the world. The group is made up of Facebook, browser maker Opera, and several leading tech hardware and communication firms. (Source: internet.org)

The group's aim is for everyone in the world to have Internet access, something that only one-third of the global population do right now. According to Zuckerberg, that's a problem for Internet users as much as it for non-users. "Today we can only hear the voices and witness the imaginations of one-third of the world's people. We are all being robbed of the creativity and potential of the two-thirds of the world not yet online." (Source: wsj.com)

Smartphones The Key to Internet Expansion

According to Zuckerberg, smartphones are a relatively cheap way of expanding access compared with the costs and logistical problems of getting computers and fixed-line Internet access, particularly in developing nations.

Most of the emphasis of Internet expansion projects so far has been on reaching the world's most remote locations using techniques as diverse as satellites and even balloons. But Zuckerberg notes that 90 percent of the world's population is already in range of a cellphone network.

He says that the biggest challenge is instead the sheer cost of mobile data. Even in the United States, for an average customer who buys an expensive handset such as an iPhone and uses it for two years, around 75% of the total cost will be data charges.

Non-Paying Users Should Get Basic Internet Access

To combat this, Zuckerberg says we need a change in culture among cellphone service providers. "Our society has already decided that certain basic services over the phone should be free. Anyone can call 911 to get medical attention or report a crime, even if you haven't paid for a phone plan. In the future, everyone should have access to basic Internet services as well, even if they haven't paid for a data plan."

Zuckerberg says such a move would benefit service providers as well. He argues that free basic access would boost the number of people with a cellphone and that in turn many of these new users will later go on to subscribe to data services for heavier or faster access.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you agree with Mark Zuckerberg that basic Internet access should be free to every phone user? What benefits do you think expanding global access might bring? Do you believe phone companies can be persuaded to offer such service, or will it only be possible if existing users or taxpayers pick up the tab? Lastly, do you believe Zuckerberg's motives are with merit, or do you believe it's part of a larger for-profit agenda designed to benefit Facebook and its stockholders?

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Dennis Faas's picture

I believe everyone should have access to the Internet as it is essential. But it's also true that service providers are charging far too much for that access. In that respect I agree with Zuckerberg, and believe his intentions are for a worthy cause.

That said, I also believe Zuckerberg has an alternative motive because his company (Facebook) profits from tracking and collecting data about people who use the Internet. Therefore, I believe it would be conflicting to suggest his ideals are not driven by profit.

ffool658's picture

He's got enough money, why doesn't he worry about feeding and housing everyone first. If people can't eat they can't afford a device to connect to the internet with!

equestrian_colt's picture

I completely agree. Internet providers need to drop their costs as well.

Boots66's picture

Sorry world but you want to be on the internet, pay for it!! - And oh by the way Mark, 911 is not free - I pay for it as a charge on my cellphone bill and on my land line - the people who man it have to be paid and the equipment maintained - Who the heck pays for that? The 911 fairies?
Sorry Mark but get real!
Like another commenter said - If Zuckerberg has so much money to blow away - then build houses and feed all the people that have nothing first - then give them an internet device so we can make out networks totally useless as every Tom, Dick and Harry gets on-line for whatever reason and we eventually grind to a halt.
I agree with another commenter that internet access fees charged by providers are expensive and I too would like to see them lower, but they also have to maintain their equipment and then provide you a service - at a profit, sure - that is what business is about - but not a gouging price to do so!

russoule's picture

let's face it, FaceBook is a profit-driven company. anything zuckerberg says is designed to increase the profits of his company. "Free Internet": is as much a mis-nomer as "Affordable Health Care". NOTHING IS FREE!
so what Zuckerberg is actually proposing is "internet service paid for by someone else". the "someone else" could be USA taxpayers or Internet Providers or Cell Phone Service Providers. he doesn't care as long as it isn't FaceBook being the "someone else". when will people wake up to the fact that these Utopian speakers always want the "free" to be paid by someone other than themselves? if an individual wants/needs internet service, than that individual should pay for such service!