by Myles Illidge 1 February 2022

Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) has announced that it will be winding down its programme to provide low-cost Internet in developing countries.

The Express Wi-Fi Programme was in operation for more than five years and offered a low-cost Internet connectivity solution in developing nations through partnerships with mobile network operators and businesses.

“While we are concluding our work on this program to focus on developing other projects, we remain committed to working with partners across the telecom ecosystem to deliver better connectivity,” Meta wrote.

“As we conclude our work on the program later this year, we’ll work closely with Express Wi-Fi partners to minimize impact to their businesses and their customer’s connectivity.”
The platform was launched in 2016 and was designed to be inexpensive, with prices starting at around $0.15 (R2.30) for 100MB.

It is important not to confuse Meta’s Express Wi-Fi platform with its Free Basics programme, which, as the name implies, is designed to bring limited free connectivity to developing countries.

Recently, software bugs in the company’s free Internet service have been racking up charges for users.
Paid features were being displayed in Meta Free Basics, even though they should remain hidden or warn users of data costs.

As a result, carriers in these countries were charging users around $7.8 million (R119 million) per month for a service that should not incur data charges.