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Internet access is vital to life, Facebook chief says of project

By Associated Press


NEW YORK » Food, water and the Internet?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to get all of the world's 7 billion people online through a partnership with some of the largest mobile technology companies. He says the Internet is an essential part of life and that everyone deserves to be connected, whether they live in Norway, Nicaragua or Namibia.

"The Internet not only connects us to our friends, families and communities, but it is also the foundation of the global knowledge economy," Zuckerberg wrote in a paper posted to his Facebook page late Tuesday. The title asks, "Is Connectivity a Human Right?"

Of course, connecting more people to the Internet is the kind of philanthropy that would create more potential Facebook users, which would also help boost the company's bottom line.

"There's nothing wrong with that," said Fordham University communications professor Paul Levinson, author of "New New Media."

"I think it is actually a profoundly important human right in the 21st century to have access to the Internet."

To get there, Facebook Inc. on Wednesday announced a partnership called Internet.org. It includes the world's biggest social network, plus Korean electronics giant Samsung, Finnish handset maker Nokia and wireless chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. More companies are expected to join.

Google Inc., which is not a part of the Internet.org effort, launched a similar undertaking earlier this year with the goal of getting everyone on Earth online. Called Project Loon, the effort launched Internet-beaming antennas aloft on giant helium balloons.

Facebook said the group's goal is to "make Internet access available to the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected" — about 5 billion people.

According to research group Internet World Stats, about 16 percent of Africa's population is online, compared with 28 percent in Asia, 43 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean and 79 percent in North America.

Levinson called the venture "profoundly humanistic, while adding that "at the same time, I would never say that Facebook is run by angels."

If the effort pays off, Facebook will enlarge its user base, advertising revenue and influence. Business and philanthropy, in this case, can go hand in hand, Levinson said.

Facebook has seen a healthy growth of its advertising revenue in recent months, especially on the mobile devices it sees as the Internet's new frontier. In its latest quarterly report, it posted the largest revenue gain since late 2011, when it was still a private company. Total revenue in the April-June quarter was up 53 percent from a year earlier to $1.81 billion.

Internet.org's plans, still in an early, rough-draft phase, include developing cheaper smartphones and tools that would reduce the amount of data required to run mobile applications. For Facebook, the move would certainly add more users to its current 1.15 billion and with them more advertising revenue. Still, Zuckerberg paints the effort as something larger.

"For nine years, we've been on a mission to connect the world. We now connect more than 1 billion people, but to connect the next 5 billion we must solve a much bigger problem: The vast majority of people don't have access to the Internet," Zuckerberg wrote.

He points out that the people who already use Facebook "have way more money than the rest of the world combined." That means it may "not actually be profitable for us to serve the next few billion people for a very long time, if ever. But we believe everyone deserves to be connected."

Most of Facebook's users live outside the U.S., and much of the site's new user base will come from developing countries in the years ahead. And while most Americans first got online using desktop computers, many of the Internet's newest users are bypassing PCs entirely, relying on mobile phones instead.

Javier Olivan, Facebook's vice president of growth and analytics, said Facebook's move continues what the company has already been doing to get more people online. This includes "Facebook For Every Phone," an app that launched in 2011 to let people with simple, non-smartphones use Facebook. Facebook says it has invested more than $1 billion so far to connect people in the developing world to the Internet.

Wireless equipment company Ericsson, Web browser developer Opera Software and MediaTek, another wireless semiconductor company, are also founding members of Internet.org.

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mikethenovice wrote:
Communicating is as important as breathing.
on August 22,2013 | 06:49AM
thos wrote:
There are all sorts of ways of "communicating". How does it help our already overweight/at risk young people to offer even greater incentives for them to sit on their lard-[plural redacted] and passively watch a glowing screen for hours at a time when they could be actually DOING something? Our sorry “culture” already promotes way too many unhelpful, unhealthy activities. The once respected goal of “a healthy mind in a healty body” is not achieved by promoting more and more passive behaviors on the part of a lemming like population of poorly educated, thought-averse, low information voters.
on August 22,2013 | 08:45AM
cojef wrote:
Only helps the bottom line for Facebook shareholders as adverising fees are dependent on total memberships or coverage in advertising revenues. It has benefits, but it has perils likewise as much personal data is required in registering. Also much personal data of activities are divulged to friends, but there no guarantee that Big Brother somewhere in the ether is not reading your posts. That also include hackers.
on August 22,2013 | 08:15AM
PMINZ wrote:
Only thing Mr. Zucker is thinking is that the Internet is vital to His Racking more dough!
on August 22,2013 | 08:43AM
hilopango wrote:
"I think it is actually a profoundly important human right in the 21st century to have access to the Internet." Do these people actually hear what they're saying? The Internet is a HUMAN RIGHT? Sounds more like a case of entitlement to me. If you need to "stay connected" with friends and family, Alexander Graham Bell's invention still works pretty darn well. The public libraries are still a wealth of information. It's nice that the libraries have internet access for those who need it and can't afford it, but come on...to make it into a human right is ridiculous.
on August 22,2013 | 10:31AM
awahana wrote:
FB is a walled garden and actually makes the internet worse, according to Tim Berners-Lee, one of the many original Internet inventors. The sooner the social media fad dies, the better off the Internet, mankind and societies will be.
Zucker just wants to violate privacy of all living things, to fill Facebook, advertisers, and govt needs.
on August 22,2013 | 11:23AM
Makua wrote:
Can't wait until the forgotten people of South Korea finally get connected to the Internet. At first they will not believe what they see. The choices alone will forever change their way of thinking.
on August 22,2013 | 11:36AM
Makua wrote:
Oops! I meant North Korea.
on August 22,2013 | 11:37AM
awahana wrote:
I was gonna say...their internet is fastest in the world, and blows us hillbilly USA surfers. My Oceanic can barely keep up with my typing...at an outrageous price! :(
on August 22,2013 | 09:23PM
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