Facebook may have failed in its effort to launch Free Basics in India, but the free internet service is currently available in 49 countries around the world. Now the company has apparently set its sights on the U.S. as a major upcoming target for its controversial but enticing Free Basics program.
The Washington Post reports that Facebook is already in talks with some smaller cell service providers in the U.S. in an effort to convince them to support Free Basics. However, the social network isn’t working with major carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile in an effort to avoid regulation. The company has also apparently suggested the idea to members of President Obama’s technology agenda team in an effort to gain government support ahead of a possible launch.
Facebook told The Washington Post that it doesn’t have anything to officially announce, but didn’t deny the news either. “Facebook’s mission is to connect the world and we’re always exploring ways to do that, including in the United States,” the company said.
Launching Free Basics to the U.S. could help bring the internet to tons of Americans who don’t have access to a regular connection or can’t afford it. Facebook’s app mostly focuses on important services, including health information, news and job listings. That’s all useful information that many of us with regular online access take for granted.
But Facebook’s efforts have also attracted plenty of criticism. The original version of Free Basics only included a pre-selected handful of apps, prompting claims that it could destroy net neutrality by giving some services a huge advantage over others. In response, the company opened up Free Basics to any organization that could meet it’s standards by removing videos, high-quality photos and anything else that uses up lots of data. However, critics have argued this still leaves out companies that can’t afford to develop special versions of their app or website to meet those standards.
The Washington Post notes that Facebook is moving slowly in its effort to bring Free Basics to the U.S. So it could still be a while before the service is actually ready to launch in the country.