A web initiative in India has brought WiFi to rural areas, offering a solution and challenging Free Basics.
While the web was buzzing about the ethics of Facebook's Free Basics service proposed in India, four engineers quietly set up a free WiFi system in Madhya Pradesh in just six months. They constructed an 80-foot tower, built a power inverter, and launched the service with no additional funding or assistance from the government or any sponsors. According to the engineers, this launch has cost approximately $300. The team consists of Shakeel Anjum, Bhanu Yadav, Abhishek Bharthare, and Tushar Bharthare. Their project presents direct competition to Free Basics, and settles some of its controversial issues. Critics of Facebook's new service state that the company is threatening net neutrality by offering a handpicked free version of the internet, with full access becoming a premium commodity.
Despite the criticisms, Facebook asserts that Free Basics "is open to any developer and any application that meets basic technical requirements," thereby allegedly resolving net neutrality concerns. However, Anjum and his team have now challenged this program with an affordable, accessible alternative with all of the same benefits and more content. Supporters of net neutrality, the engineers have stated that they believe access to everything on the internet is critical. The current monthly expenses of maintaining connectivity to their tower for the village are roughly $120, and the team is looking to local government to support this cost.
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