2013 Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, launched a bold mission. His vision is to provide connection to the internet to the five billion people all over the world, who do not have connection to the internet yet.
The aim is to provide basic useful internet services for free in regions where internet connectivity is not existent or very expensive, like in huge parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia. But how to get the signal to rural regions, far away from the cities? The plan is to develop an alternative to huge static transmitter towers, providing the internet signal, which are expensive and difficult to realise.
The solution lays in small unmanned transmitters, flying in an altitude of 2000 meter above the surface, powered by solar energy. The advantage of this technology is a higher flexibility and a better quality of connectivity since the distance between transmitter and receiver is tremendously smaller than between satellites located in the lower orbit.
Zuckerberg defends this idea with his position that “everyone has the right for connectivity” and believes that making connectivity to the internet reality to more people, it would revolutionize the internet as a whole.
Facebook does not run this new project called internet.org alone but arranged a cooperation between the biggest providers of social networks, mobile phones and network providers such as Samsung, Microsoft, Ericsson and Opera. The offered services are available through a basic application internet.org which can be accessed without any costs emerging for the consumer in the respective regions. The project, although still very young, is making progress and the number of users increases steadily.
But with the increasing influence and impact internet.org has, criticism arises as well. A major accusation against the project is, that it threatens the net neutrality since a selection takes place, which services are available and which are not. Especially in India more and more criticism arises. They claim that the criterion of being “a useful service” is very vague and leaves space for arbitrariness. In fact, internet.org itself decides which services are included and the developer of the services have to apply for it.
Thinking a bit further and assuming that internet.org will connect more and more people it might become a pivotal condition for services to be accepted. The project could create a gap between insiders and outsider, which fundamentally affects the net neutrality.
The vision of making connectivity to the internet universal and in fact converting the majority of people into internet users sounds futuristic and can be seen as something virtually positive. However, the question remains to what extent internet.org will lead to a (further) monopolisation of the services by deciding which services are accessible and which not. For the moment, it remains to say, that it is very difficult to anticipate the impact internet.org will have and which direction it will take.