Facebook launches free Internet program in Indonesia

Facebook is pushing its free Internet service into Indonesia, making it the second Asian market to receive the limited Internet service, offering a variety bundle of international and local services including the social network and Wikipedia.

Indonesia is the third most populated country in Asia and fourth in the world behind the United States, India and China. Even with 255 million people living in the country, it is still quite poor and Internet connectivity is lower than in neighbouring countries India and China.

The past two years has shown some growth in the region, with Android devices becoming even cheaper and internet access starting to become available nationwide. Internet.org, the program Facebook is running under, should be able to reach millions incapable of finding the funds to get online.

PT Indosat Tbk will be the main carrier providing Internet service in Indonesia. Facebook will add a few services like Opera Mobile Browser, Wikipedia, Google Search and some local services.

Even though the deal seems fair to those that cannot afford Internet, India has went against Internet.org’s program, claiming it goes against net neutrality laws. Though these laws aren’t necessarily legally binding, NDTV, Cleartrip.com and NewsHunt have all pulled out of the program in India.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg fought back against the allegations, claiming some Internet is better than no Internet. He also said that Facebook would be unable to finance Internet.org if content barriers were not put in place, despite offering three of the top five most searched websites in the world on its Internet.org plan.

Even with this setback, Facebook has huge plans for Internet.org, including solar powered drones capable of flying over a region and providing satellite Internet access for free.

The end goal is to make these users paid customers on the local carrier, who will hopefully go back to Facebook and view some ads. It is a long shot, but Google is also on board with Project Loon, clearly showing bringing the next two billion people online is a big deal.