BARCELONA, Spain — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed Monday to press on with his 3-year-old effort to bring the developing world online, even after Indian regulators banned one of the pillars of the campaign.
He said the banned service, Free Basics, was only one program in his Internet.org campaign, so he could proceed with other initiatives. Indian regulators banned Free Basics this month because it provided access only to certain pre-approved services — including Facebook — rather than the full Internet.
“Facebook isn’t a company that hits a roadblock and gives up,” Zuckerberg said at the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain. “We take the hits and try to get better.”
Though Zuckerberg termed the regulatory defeat “disappointing for the mission and a major setback,” he said every country was different, and “the model that has worked in one country may not work in another.”
This was his third appearance at the Barcelona show to promote Internet access to everyone in the world.
He has argued that online connections can improve lives and fuel economic development.
To achieve that goal, Zuckerberg has high-flying dreams for someday providing Internet connections through a network of drones, satellites and lasers. Zuckerberg said Monday that Internet.org would launch its first satellite over Africa this year, and “we are about to test flying Internet drone solar planes that can fly three months a year.”
While the drones may someday connect people in areas too remote for cables or cell towers, Free Basics is intended for people who live in areas with Internet service but still can’t afford it. Facebook works with wireless carriers in poorer nations to let people use streamlined versions of Facebook and certain other online services, without paying data charges.
A low-income resident of urban Manila, for example, can use Free Basics to view the Philippines’ GMA News site. “He can be informed. He can research. He can read the news,” Ederic Eder of GMA News said.
The program varies by country, in offerings and effectiveness.
Last fall, Facebook announced a major expansion in Africa, where a regional carrier, Bharti Airtel, said it will offer Free Basics in 17 countries.
Free Basics is now in 36 countries. It was suspended last year in Egypt, on the anniversary of anti-government protests that were organized partly on Facebook.
An earlier version of Free Basics, known as Facebook Zero, was shuttered three years ago in Chile, after authorities said Internet providers couldn’t offer discounts for accessing some content but not others.