Facebook Portal Aims To Attract Mobile Operators to Internet.org

In the year since Facebook introduced its Internet.org app to help bring the world's unconnected people online, the effort has attracted both criticism and a certain level of success. With the first anniversary of the app arriving this week, Facebook and its technology partners have launched a portal to make it easier for new mobile partners around the world to sign up for the program.

Launched in Zambia last July, the Internet.org app provided Airtel customers in that country with free basic services, including access to just over a dozen Web sites such as AccuWeather, Facebook, Google Search, MAMA (the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action) and Wikipedia. In partnership with more than a dozen other mobile operators, the availability of the Internet.org app has since expanded to more than nine million people in 17 countries.

Facebook said the app has helped local operators build their markets by bringing on new users, about half of whom have gone on to sign up for paid Internet services. However, the initiative has also been criticized -- especially in India -- as a Facebook-centric Web service that violates Net neutrality because it provides zero-rating, or free, access to only a handful of online sites.

'Ready To Scale Services'

"By providing people with access to free basic services through Internet.org, our goal was to bring more people online and help them discover the value of the Internet -- and it's working," Facebook said this week in a blog post on its news site. "As we approach year two, we've taken everything weEUve learned from working closely with our partners and are now ready to scale Internet.org free basic services."

To help with that goal, Facebook and its Internet.org partners have launched a portal to help mobile operators sign up for the service more easily. Among other...

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