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Google Is Expanding Its Public Wi-Fi Program to a Second Country in Asia

Aug 24, 2017

Google, like Facebook, is trying to expand online markets in developing countries and has struck a deal with Indonesian fiber broadband providers FiberStar and CBN to introduce its Station public Wi-Fi scheme to the country.

This marks the second country to get Google Station, after India. Google started rolling out public Wi-Fi hotspots at India railway stations in early 2016, before formalizing the scheme as Google Station in September. The program gives the company's partners tools to more easily set up Google's hotspots, and Google said it would be hitting even more locations around the world "soon."

Google said Wednesday that the Indonesian rollout would cover "hundreds of venues across Java and Bali over the next year."

At the same time, the company said it would be releasing its YouTube Go app in Indonesia. Again, this app—designed to make it easier for people to watch YouTube videos on constrained mobile data connections—has already made its debut in India.

Google Station hotspots are free to use, although the plan is to monetize them at some point, with proceeds to be shared with partners including local city councils.

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As with Facebook's Free Basics scheme, which involves an app that gives free access to a limited set of web services, the idea with Google Station is to get people online for the first time. After Indian regulators banned Free Basics for breaking the country's net neutrality rules last year, Facebook has also put more focus on the simpler and less controversial idea of rolling out low-cost Internet access points, under the banner of its Express Wi-Fi project.

Facebook's Express Wi-Fi hotspots are now available in India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Kenya.

In its Wednesday announcements, Google also said Indonesia would be one of the first countries where users will get to see "locally-tailored" results to search queries about health. This involves a partnership with Indonesia hospital group Mitra Keluarga that will help Google "detail common symptoms and treatments for Indonesia’s 700 most prevalent health conditions."

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