Zuckerberg: Internet should be free for everyone

By Mike Cannon, Tech Times | July 8, 7:43 PM

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says making Internet access available to everyone is the world's next big challenge. He notes a report commissioned by Facebook shows universal access would benefit public health, more jobs and increased productivity.
(Photo : Michael Coghlan)

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, believes Internet access should be available and affordable for everyone. He also suggests access to basic Internet service should be free to anyone in the world.

Today, 2.7 billion people, or around one-third of the Earth's population, have access to the Internet. Facebook and Google are seeking to expand this availability, exploring technologies such as drones and satellites. However, Zuckerberg says the solution may already be in place.

"Almost 90 percent of the world's population already lives within range of an existing cellular network," says Zuckerberg. "For everyone in those areas, we don't need to build completely new kinds of infrastructure to help them connect. We just need to show why it's valuable and make it affordable."

Facebook, along with several cooperating tech companies, has already founded Internet.org. The organization was created with the goal of making Internet access available to everyone, regardless of location or financial situation. Zuckerberg believes that even those who can't afford to pay for Internet service should have access to some basic services, although he didn't specify what those services would be. Facebook already is available on some mobile devices without a data plan, so this would merely be an expansion of the organization's goals.

Providing Internet access to everyone would obviously be good for Facebook. With the amount of market dominance Facebook and Google have achieved, the primary means for them to obtain new customers is to give more people access to their services through the Internet. However, Internet.org says that the economic benefits to citizens could be substantial. It quotes a report done by Deloitte and commissioned by Facebook, and first released in February at Mobile World Congress.

"The report found that by expanding Internet access in developing countries to levels seen today in developed economies, we could increase productivity by as much as 25 percent, generating $2.2 trillion in GDP and more than 140 million new jobs, lifting 160 million people out of poverty," says Internet.org.

Zuckerberg also says that the value of connecting the entire world to the Internet could be cultural as well as financial, giving people in countries seldom heard of on the world stage a voice of their own. He talked about expanding online access in an op-ed piece July 7 in the Wall Street Journal.

Access to the wealth of information contained on the Internet could also help increase public health. Those without easy access to medical care could use the Internet to identify the symptoms of a problem in need of treatment, reducing the spread of disease and even decreasing infant mortality rates in developing countries.

"It's easy to take the Internet for granted and assume most people will soon have the access and opportunity we have, but that just isn't the case," says Zuckerberg. "Connecting everyone is one of the fundamental challenges of our generation."

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