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Facebook merges internet projects under 'Connectivity'

Same internet-for-all initiatives, new umbrella organization.
David Lumb, @OutOnALumb
August 10, 2018
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Charles Platiau / Reuters

Facebook has introduced Connectivity, a new umbrella organization containing the company's various internet-for-all projects. Yes, it still includes Internet.org (rebranded as Free Basics), the social network's stripped-down web service launched five years ago that was soundly criticized by experts and blocked in several countries. But it also rounds up other efforts to improve internet infrastructure in less-connected parts of the world.

In short, this seems like a more measured collective endeavor to link people who lack internet access -- one made by a company chastened on many fronts since it boldly introduced Internet.org in 2013 as its opening move to start connecting the unconnected parts of the planet.

"There's no silver bullet for connecting the world," Yael Maguire, vice president of engineering for Facebook Connectivity, told CNET. "There isn't going to be a magic technology or business plan or single regulatory policy change that's going to change this. We really believe that it is a wide and diverse set of efforts that's required to do this."

One of the new organization's included domains is 'high-altitude connectivity,' one of the company's more headline-grabbing collection of efforts. While Facebook shuttered development of its giant internet-broadcasting drones back in June, it's still looking to increase access via towers and satellites, the first of which it hopes to launch in early 2019.

But Connectivity also contains less flashy initiatives like better analytics tools to improve its partners' network operations and efficiency. For example, the company collects network coverage and download speeds to inform telecoms of outages, as well as provide data insights to help plan future networks. There's also the organization's R&D efforts to better rural and urban connectivity, the latter through its impressively-named 'Terragraph' tech proposed as an alternative to fiber.

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