World Bank Not So Sure About Facebook's Free Internet Service

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By Keith Wagstaff

The World Bank has reservations about Facebook's plan to make the Internet more accessible across the globe.

In a 359-page report released on Wednesday, the World Bank wrote that the "recent trend to develop services in which some basic content can be accessed free of data charges (such as Facebook’s Free Basics or, while other content is subject to data charges, would appear to be the antithesis of net neutrality and a distortion of markets."

In October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended Free Basics by saying, "you cannot provide the whole Internet for free." The service provides free access to a limited number of Internet services, including weather information, Wikipedia, and Facebook.

Related: Make the Case: Is Net Neutrality a Good Idea?

The report also expressed concern that growth in the tech sector isn't stemming income inequality, noting that Facebook had around 5,000 employees, many of them skilled, white-collar workers, in 2012 — compared to Kodak, which had 145,000 at its peak.

"The lives of the majority of the world’s people remain largely untouched by the digital revolution," the report said. It noted that "only around 15 percent can afford access to broadband Internet" and that "nearly 2 billion people do not own a mobile phone, and nearly 60 percent of the world’s population has no access to the Internet."