The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will use Facebook Connectivity’s Express Wi-Fi platform to provide public Wi-Fi hotspots in various locations around the country
New partnerships with Indian ISPs D-Vois and Netplus will see Facebook help to deploy their Express Wi-Fi platform in Bangalore and a number of Punjabi cities, aiming to help drive economic growth.
Throughout the pandemic, the demand for connectivity has skyrocketed and expanding the availability of affordable broadband in India has become a priority.
“Affordable, high-quality internet access is an essential ingredient to fueling the digital economy and enhancing access to jobs, education, healthcare and more,” said Manish Chopra, Director and Head of Partnerships at Facebook India. “From Dharavi in Mumbai to Shillong, Aizawl, Vadodara, Rajkot, and many other towns and cities, the Express Wi-Fi platform is helping expand internet connectivity in the country, enabling economic opportunities, innovation, and expression for people, businesses, and communities alike. D-Vois and Netplus will help unleash new opportunities for users and micro-entrepreneurs in both Bangalore and key cities of Punjab, and we’re thrilled to have them as partners on this exciting journey.”
Facebook Connectivity’s Express Wi-Fi platform is already used by various ISP partners in around 30 countries and has a growing footprint in India, where it is currently deployed by eight partners. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook made use of the platform to share Covid-related information to local communities.
The new partnership with D-Vois and Netplus will take this footprint even further. The former has a presence in 60 cities, operating under the ION brand, and will deploy the Express Wi-Fi at around 1,000 access points in Bangalore. These access points are focussed at high-footfall locations, like government buildings, hospitals, and busy streets.
Meanwhile, Netplus, the internet arm of Fastway Group, will aim for similar high-footfall public areas across the cities of Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandar, Patiala, and Bhatinda in Punjab.
Facebook’s relationship with India is something of an uneasy one. On the one hand, India represents an enormous market, one that the US social media platform would love to capitalise upon. On the other, India’s regulators are vary wary of giving the US giant too much of a free hand, especially when it comes to the company’s ambitious digital payment plans.
The company’s most recent clash with the Indian government comes via their subsidiary WhatsApp. The government recently introduced new digital laws that will force social media and steaming platforms to be provide the “identification of the first originator of the information”. Critics suggest that this law will be used by the government to crack down on dissidents, with platforms like WhatsApp required to hand over identifying information if requested by law enforcement.
When this move was first announced back in February, WhatsApp said it would fight to maintain the integrity of its privacy policies. By May, however, it had agreed to comply with the government’s policy, saying it would continue to discuss the matter.
“We aim to comply with the provisions of the IT rules and continue to discuss a few of the issues which need more engagement with the government… Facebook remains committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on our platform," said a company statement.
India remains a challenging environment for Facebook but, with its $5.7 billion investment into Reliance Jio last year, it is clear that the US tech giant is committed to the rapidly growing market.
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