Meta is shutting down its Express Wi-Fi service

(Image credit: Shutterstock / metamorworks)

Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, has announced that it will close its Express Wi-Fi service, which, in partnership with other companies, offered wireless internet access in more than 30 countries. 

"Together with our partners, we helped expand public Wi-Fi access for people in more than 30 countries via the Express Wi-Fi platform," the company said. "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."

Launched in 2016, Express Wi-Fi was part of Facebook's Connectivity push, seeking to entice the next one billion uses who either had poor internet connections or no connection at all. The group also focused on Free Basics, the service that offers internet services for no cost to the end user. 

"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," Meta added, suggesting that anyone relying on the service might not quite be left out in the cold. 

The next billion

For many years, Mark Zuckerberg was focused on finding the next one billion users. In a white paper (which is no longer hosted on Facebook), Zuckerberg spoke of the opportunities, jobs, and connections that could be created by connecting the unconnected. 

In reality, these ambitions were very hard to achieve for logistical and social reasons. 

Projects to project Wi-Fi onto hard-to-reach areas with drones, for example, were often impractical, even with huge time and investment. In other cases, people in developing countries often had internet access but felt little need to use it. 

Facebook, and now Meta, has ultimately scaled back most of its ambitions, except for Free Basics, and Express Wi-Fi is the latest example. 

Max Slater-Robins has been writing about technology for nearly a decade at various outlets, covering the rise of the technology giants, trends in enterprise and SaaS companies, and much more besides. Originally from Suffolk, he currently lives in London and likes a good night out and walks in the countryside.