Facebook has announced that 8 lakh Indians already access the Internet for free through its Internet.org initiative which it rolled out in partnership with Reliance Telecom in February.
The social network came under fire for infringing upon Net Neutrality norms by offering access to just 30 partner sites through Internet.org, which led to the exit of players like Cleartrip and news organizations such as the Times Group and NDTV.
Globally, Facebook claims that it has connected 800 million people to the Internet via Internet.org from across 9 countries including India. Further, it says that about 20% of Internet.org users were not active on mobile data, meaning they’re inducting new mobile Internet users.
The company also reiterated its goal of Internet.org in the face of criticism, saying that it was a platform only to show new users the benefits of the Internet by offering free service, ultimately having them become paying customers of the Internet.
Further, Internet.org is now an open platform meaning any developer can provide its users access to their service as long as they follow the guidelines set by Facebook.
Another instance indicating that Internet.org is actually working in India, is that new users who were introduced to the Internet via Internet.org are now consuming a minimum of 100MB of data every month on Reliance’s network.
Tieups with ISPs is just the first step of Internet.org’s dream to bring 5 billion people online. Facebook is also pursuing partnerships with Samsung and Qualcomm in order to offer users more streamlined access to the Internet on devices made/powered by them.