Meta is reportedly ending its Express Wi-Fi programme designed to provide low-cost internet in developing countries through partnerships with local communities, mobile operators, and businesses.
Launched in 2016, it was not free like Meta-owned Facebook’s failed Free Basics program, struck down by Indian courts for violating net neutrality, reports Engadget.
Instead, the report said it was designed to be inexpensive, starting at around 15 cents for 100MB or $5 for 20GB.
Facebook partnered with satellite companies, internet service providers (ISPs), and others in places like India, South Africa, and the Philippines.
Retailers were able to sell hotspots at reasonable rates decided by them and the operator, rather than Facebook. Meta would benefit, of course, by gaining access to new customers it, no doubt, hoped would create Facebook accounts.
As with Google, the report said that most of the company’s recent growth has come from developing countries where people are getting online for the first time.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that glitches in Meta’s free internet services were creating unwanted charges for users in countries like Pakistan.
Meta was also reportedly favoring its own content on its free-data Discover service to the detriment of other sites.
Meta said that while it is winding down Express Wi-Fi, it is focusing on other projects around internet access, as per the report.