(CNN) — Two thirds of the world population does not have Internet access. Facebook already has more than a billion users on its service, but before it can sign up the rest of world it needs to get them online.
The social media company announced a new step in its ambitious plan to bring affordable, basic Internet access to “every person in the world.” Facebook’s new Connectivity Lab will research and test experimental technology including drones, satellites and lasers to spread the reach of the Internet to isolated locations that currently do not have Internet.
“We’ve been working on ways to beam Internet to people from the sky,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a post announcing the new effort.
Last year, Facebook announced Internet.org, a coalition of major tech companies working together to lower barriers to Internet access using more traditional methods, such as making it cheaper to get Internet on cell phones. Those efforts have been responsible for getting 3 million more people online, according to Zuckerberg.
This new initiative focuses on experimenting with new technology. The group is working with drones that can stay in the air for months at a time, bringing Internet connections to suburban areas. In more rural spots, satellites will be tested as a way to beam connections to the people on the ground. The group will attempt to make speedier long distance connections using invisible infrared laser beams.
The developers who keep redesigning your Facebook news feed will not be dabbling in satellites and drones. Facebook has brought on aerospace experts from NASA and the team who built the Zephyr solar-powered drone.
Internet access is a cause major technology companies can easily get behind. It’s a smart business investment that doubles as a charitable cause.
Google announced plans to tackle the issue last summer with its own ambitious Project Loon. Instead of drones, the company is testing giant balloons that travel in the earth’s stratosphere for 100 days at a time. Using specialized antennas, the balloons will deliver Internet at 3G speeds.