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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Facebook CEO Announces Internet Access Project


Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the company is teaming up with six others to help bring Internet access to more than four billion people who still don't have it.

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Mr. Zuckerberg estimated that only 2.7 billion people--just over one-third of the world's population--now have access to the Internet.
The group, called internet.org, will attempt to aid emerging economies by making Web access more affordable, use data more efficiently and help business drive access to more users.
"There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy," said Mr. Zuckerberg in prepared remarks. "Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making Internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it."
He said the company has already spent about $1 billion on infrastructure toward the goal of broader Internet access in the developing world, and plans to spend more.

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Other founding members of the group are major players in the mobile market and other tech sectors: Samsung Electronics Co., Qualcomm Inc.,EricssonNokia Corp., MediaTek Inc. and Opera Software ASA.
Mr. Zuckerberg estimated that only 2.7 billion people—just over one-third of the world's population—now have access to the Internet, with adoption growing by less than 9% each year.
The group plans to address the situation in a variety of ways, and take on new partners as part of the effort, Mr. Zuckerberg said.
Facebook now says it connects 1.15 billion people each month. But further expansion is hobbled by the fact that many people still aren't on the Internet, Mr. Zuckerberg says.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the company is teaming up with six others to help bring Internet access to more than four billion people who still do not have it. Brian Fitzgerald joins the News Hub. Photo: Getty Images.
Roughly five billion people have some kind of mobile phones. But the vast majority don't have smartphones, and many people can't afford the data access plans that will give them access to the Web, he says.
Mr. Zuckerberg said the consortium will work together on projects to expand connectivity, leaning on their relationships with mobile operators, governments, academics and other nongovernmental organizations.
Internet.org underscores how the ambitions of Mr. Zuckerberg, the 29-year-old co-founder of Facebook, have grown.
Since launching the site in his dorm room in 2004, Mr. Zuckerberg has doggedly pushed the site to a vast scale, hitting the milestone of one billion users late last year. In a paper titled "Is Connectivity a Human Right," posted on his Facebook profile, Mr. Zuckerberg outlined his rationale for the project.
"I'm focused on this because I believe it is one of the greatest challenges of our generation," he wrote.
Write to Evelyn M. Rusli at evelyn.rusli@wsj.com and Don Clark atdon.clark@wsj.com

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