Facebook's 'free internet' scheme coming to Europe, says Zuckerberg

Internet.org is for everyone in the world, according to its CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he wants to bring his 'free internet' initiative internet.org to Europe.

The move would mark a significant expansion for the program, with internet.org already launched in countries including Brazil and India to offer the nation's low-income citizens a degree of free internet access.

Zuckerberg confirmed the plan for internet.org in a public Q&A on Facebook on Tuesday where he fielded questions from users on topics ranging from from how easy it was to learn Mandarin to his reading habits and how many hours a day he works.

The standout question however came from one Facebook user who wanted to know whether internet.org would come to Europe. Zuckerberg replied: "Yes, we want to bring Internet.org everyone where there are people who need to be connected. We're starting off by prioritizing the countries with the most unconnected people and by working with network operators and governments who are most excited about working with Internet.org to get everyone online in their countries."

Europe might not be the most needy place in the world when it comes to better connectivity, however it's also not as well connected as it should be - as shown in the latest European Commission broadband statistics.

The EC wants all Europeans to have download speeds of at least 30Mbps by 2020 and at least half of all Europeans to have speeds above 100Mbps by then. Today however there's huge variance between the speed, quality, and uptake of services across the continent - even where 30Mbps and better are available.

Sweden and the UK have fixed line broadband takeup rates of 67 percent and 82 percent respectively, with near ubiquitous coverage, while only half of households in Italy have subscribed to a fixed broadband service and and only two percent have a service above 30Mbps. Meanwhile in Lithuania, where 97 percent of households have access to at least 30Mbps fixed broadband, just 58 percent of households have subscribed to what is considered affordable services. Uptake in Croatia is about the same, though the obstacle is affordability, while uptake in Bulgaria is even lower for much the same reason.

Responding to UK entrepreneur Richard Branson, Zuckerberg also said that internet.org was more than an effort to bring people out of poverty, but also a chance to boost entrepreneurship.

"Think about how many brilliant entrepreneurs there are out there who have great ideas and the will to change the world, but just lack basic tools to do so today. If you go by the population, almost 2/3 of these entrepreneurs don't have internet access today. Once they get connected, we may have 3x as many good ideas and amazing new services built that will benefit everyone around the world," said Zuckerberg.

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