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Mark Zuckerberg Announces Coalition To Spread Internet Access (And Get More Customers)

Submitted by on August 22, 2013 – 9:11 amNo Comment

Yesterday, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the formation of Internet.org, a coalition of major tech companies working to spread internet access to the two-thirds of the world’s citizens who still lack it. While the group has humanitarian aims, many have noted that the companies, which include cellphone manufacturers and the social network itself, have billions of customers to gain from enhanced service.

In a statement posted to Facebook, Zuckerberg explained his reasons:

“Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect [...] There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it.”

The post also outlined three main goals: making access affordable (extending infrastructure in “underserved communities”), using data more efficiently (making apps and phones that use less data), and helping business drive access (incentiving the programs for businesses).

But these humanitarian goals also align nicely with a reality that tech companies are confronting: they are running out of new customers in the developed world, where majorities already have internet access (and a Facebook account).

More internet access in the developing world could mean more smartphones sold by Internet.org co-founders Nokia and Samsung, more wireless equipment sold by Ericsson, and more users for Facebook. And more Facebook users means more data, and higher prices for advertisers.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Zuckerberg downplayed the business benefits, saying, “We’re focused on it more because we think it’s something good for the world, rather than something that is going to be really amazing for our profits.”

 Facebook isn’t the only company trying to spread the internet, possibly for selfish reasons: increased access has long been a cause for Google. The search engine giant recently unveiled Project Loon, an experimental venture to bring internet to rural and disaster-stricken areas using weather balloon-type devices. But Google’s US high speed internet business- Google Fiber- is the thing that really shows how the company is pushing for consumers to have better internet, so they can do more Googling.
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