Mark Zuckerberg was set to provide millions of people with free internet access in Africa. Internet.org was poised to help those without internet service finally connect to the world. The project, aimed at working to “connect two-thirds of the world that don’t have internet access,” offers a platform for businesses and internet providers to join the cause. Unfortunately that dream went up in flames as the rocket that was planned to launch the satellite exploded during takeoff.
The SpaceX Rocket Explosion
Zuckerberg was in the middle of traveling to Africa to promote his internet project launch when things quickly came to a halt, more like a fireball of disappointment. During the launch, the SpaceX rocket, fitted with the satellite that was planned to be used in the project, exploded on the tarmac during takeoff.
Zuckerberg released a statement on Facebook confirming the disaster stating, “As I’m here in Africa, I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent.”
Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, felt the impact immediately on his reputation and responded quickly with a statement of his own.
Phil Larson, the spokesperson for the company indicated, “At approximately 9:07 am ET, during a standard pre-launch static fire test for the AMOS-6 mission, there was an anomaly at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 resulting in loss of the vehicle.” Larson further stated, “The anomaly originated around the upper stage oxygen tank and occurred during propellant loading of the vehicle. Per standard operating procedure, all personnel were clear of the pad and there were no injuries. We are continuing to review the data to identify the root cause.”
While there were no fatalities in the explosion, it has certainly caused another blemish on SpaceX’s record, not to mention delaying access to the world wide web to millions.
Will Facebook Internet Truly be Free?
While Facebook intends to have various internet providers sign up to provide service through their platform, at this point no one knows whether the access will actually be “free” for the long-term for those in need.
The initial plan offers free “basics” for internet users, implying that if you want faster internet, more services, or upgrades, then service for payment is not out of the question.
Another factor playing into the project is that it will have “limited” access to sites that sign up to provide free browsing for users.
This means that only those companies willing to participate and grant access will be online for users to browse. A major flaw in this concept is that many worry it will lack the most valuable resources. Facebook Free Basics currently has no government, educational institution, or entertainment sites.
What’s the “Angle” on Facebook’s Return from the Project?
Providing free internet to developing nations seems like a very altruistic gesture at face value. However, closer examination of the logistics and actual workings of the project has some questioning the end goal and impact it may have on users in the area.
The first main concern has to do with how the access will be provided. It’s not an actual internet service provider; rather, all traffic is redirected and hosted on Facebook’s server. This means that Facebook will fully control all content and information disseminated to users.
Another concern is around “security and privacy.” India has gone as far as banning the project from their users, due to a lack of privacy and encryption protocol held by Facebook. The company has recently addressed this concern stating, “Facebook uses a variety of encryption technologies to help people connect securely to our services, and we’re committed to continuing down this path. We are going to support sites using TLS, SSL, and HTTPS on the Internet.org Android app starting around June, but we don’t currently allow these protocols as part of the app or website because our existing proxying implementation would not allow us to proxy sites carrying encrypted traffic without applying what’s known as a ‘man-in-the-middle’ technique to otherwise protected traffic.”
Time will tell how this project will unfold and whether or not it fully lives up to the high expectations that have been set.