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Meta Is Winding Back Its Express Wi-Fi Community Oriented Program, Owing To Some Technical Issues

Meta is bringing its Express Wi-Fi program to a close, ending a massive community-oriented project aiming to provide low-cost internet to many developing nations across the world.

Rarely am I ever asked in my job to write a piece about Meta, and have that piece discuss something positive about the social media conglomerate. I suppose since we’re talking about the discontinuation of a solid project, however, the end result of this article isn’t really discussing anything positive; so, I’m still on brand with my musing and writings about Meta. Nice! At any rate, the company formerly known as Facebook’s previously attempted such a community outreach program of sorts in India, by the name of the Free Basics Program. Free Basics allowed users in the country to visit Meta and its social media platforms for free (WhatsApp was not a part of this exchange). The program itself was ultimately put down by the Indian government over concerns that such mass free access was breaking net neutrality regulations within the country. Also, a social media platform advertising itself as the product being mass-delivered across a country probably rubbed regulators the wrong way.

The Express Wi-Fi program, however, displayed a bit more nuance than Free Basics did in its approach; while also starting off with India, Express Wi-Fi chose to provide certain regions of the country with cheap, affordable Wi-Fi options that started around 15 cents for 100 MBs, or USD $5 for 20 GBs. Honestly, Wi-Fi at such rates is a pretty good deal, and Meta soon began to project the service to countries outside of India. Partnering with different satellite companies, the Express Wi-Fi program expanded its borders to include regions in the Philippines and South Africa. However, in what almost seems like a monkey paw wish, even the best of Meta’s intentions came with unwanted consequences.

Glitches in the software were leading to certain “free” accessories costing infinitely more than they should have. Certain videos and the like via Express Wi-Fi are free to users; however, these videos were being mixed up with other content that actually costs money, and users were unwittingly being charged for viewing content that they thought was completely free. Users were being charged around a cumulative USD $7.8 million per month across the world, with the situation in Pakistan being particularly bad at USD $1.9 million of the total.

So, Meta’s winding back its Express Wi-Fi services for the nonce. There’s a very good chance that we might see it making a comeback in the future. However, currently Meta wants to work on other community-oriented projects and goals, preferably ones with fewer glitches.


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