Mark Zuckerberg had been in talks with the government of India for more than a year, seeking permission to set up a satellite in India. But because of the strict air space regulations, he did not pursue the idea further and decided to launch it in sub-Saharan Africa.
Mr. Zuckerberg shared this information at a roundtable discussion here on Thursday with a delegation of MPs, economists, policymakers, industrialists and public intellectuals. Dr. Rajiv Kumar, an economist at a Delhi based think tank Centre for Policy Research, told The Hindu that the Facebook CEO hasn’t abandoned the idea of launching a satellite in India. He has plans to set up the second one (satellite) in India,” said Dr. Kumar, who also participated in the discussion. “At present the last mile connectivity in India is mobile to mobile and he (Zuckerberg) thinks it’s hard to have a much bigger outreach. With a satellite he can overcome this shortcoming and help the country achieve much better internet penetration.” When Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Member of Parliament who also attended the discussion, asked Mr. Zuckerberg if Facebook was jockeying for controlling the internet through Internet.org, he responded saying the “company seeks to make internet accessible to all” through its newest “Free Basics” service. He indicated that Free Basics shall operate as an open platform and that Facebook will not selectively choose its content or its carrier, a marked shift from its original gatekeeper role,” Mr. Chandrasekhar told The Hindu.
FICCI’s media head Rajiv Tyagi, who was present on the occasion, said that Mr. Zuckerberg ensured them that he is deeply committed to India and to the issue of “affordable” access for the next billion citizens of the world, nearly 250 million of which will come from India. He (Zuckerberg) said that, amongst all the countries in the world, India with a billion unconnected has the best possibility of aligning a best in class regulatory environment to ensure access to its citizens,” Mr. Tyagi told The Hindu . “He also said that no single country can boast of such an opportunity and for the next unconnected billion citizens, not only physical access but an appreciation of how internet benefits their life, will be the key to getting them online, so Facebook is ready to play its rightful role in this space.”