According to Fung, the U.S. version of Internet.org Free Basics would be aimed at low-income and rural Americans who lack access to reliable broadband connections, either at home or via mobile devices, and the app would give them free access to services such as news, health information and job listings.
Fung also reported that Facebook has yet to engage in talks with major wireless carriers, instead focusing on smaller providers.
Facebook issued the following statement to Fung:
While we have nothing to announce, Facebook’s mission is to connect the world, and we’re always exploring ways to do that, including in the U.S.
There’s a bigger question of opening a Pandora’s box. You’d have to be concerned that Facebook might ultimately usurp the customer relationship and, at renewal time, demand to be paid rather than just carried.
Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council vice president Nicol Turner-Lee was more bullish on the news, telling Fung:
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring (Free Basics) here, because we face many of the same challenges (as developing countries) in historically disadvantaged communities. This is another way to ensure that this administration has a legacy with some of those programs if they become part of the Free Basics suite.
Readers: Do you think Facebook will bring Internet.org Free Basics to the U.S.?