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Facebook CEO will bring affordable broadband to Europe, eventually

Thursday, April 16th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said the site’s broadband-for-all project Internet.org will be coming to Europe.

But the social network’s co-founder suggested it could be some time off, as there were other parts of the world it needed to prioritise.

Mr Zuckerberg was taking part in a question and answer session hosted on Facebook on Monday when user Mihai Huţan asked: “Hi Mark, are you planning to expand the internet.org project even in Europe?”

“Yes, we want to bring Internet.org [to] everyone where there are people who need to be connected,” wrote Mr Zuckerberg.

“We're starting off by prioritizing the countries with the most unconnected people and by working with network operators and governments who are most excited about working with Internet.org to get everyone online in their countries.”

Internet.org is a partnership between Facebook, Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Microsoft, Opera Software, Reliance and Qualcomm that aims to bring affordable internet access to everybody.

Mr Zuckerberg launched the initiative two years ago, calling connectivity “a human right”.

'Basic internet services'

Projects have since been launched in countries including Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Columbia, Ghana, India, Philippines and Guatemala.

There has there been criticism that Internet.org violates net neutrality – the principle that all internet data and traffic should be treated equally – because it gives users access to only a limited amount of web-based services.

On the Q&A, user Josh Constine asked: “What's your opinion on the net neutrality implications of Internet.org providing free access to only a select few ‘basic Internet services’ in the developing world, while other services require a data plan, and how Facebook/Internet.org is in the position to choose what services are free?”

Mr Zuckerberg replied: “I think net neutrality is important to make sure network operators don't discriminate and limit access to services people want to use, especially in countries where most people are online.

“For people who are not on the internet though, having some connectivity and some ability to share is always much better than having no ability to connect and share at all.

“That’s why programs like Internet.org are important and can co-exist with net neutrality regulations.”

In January, the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) announced that EE, Virgin Media and Vodafone had become the latest signatories of a voluntary code of practice supporting the open internet.

The move meant that all major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) across both fixed and mobile networks in the UK have signed up to the Open Internet Code, which ensures full and open internet access, regardless of commercial issues.

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