Foundation for 'free and open' global Net access

World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee has set up a foundation to extend the Internet to the entire world.

Called the World Wide Web Foundation, Berners-Lee said the organisation's aim would be to extend the capabilities of the Net by ensuring that it is available to all the world's people.

It will “advance a web which is open and free", he reckons, and foremost among its guiding principles will be the aim to promote democracy, free speech and the freedom of surfers to access the online content they want.

“The promise of the Foundation is to accelerate the Web's advancement and growth around the planet. It is pretty exciting to be a part of it,” says fellow organisation founder Steve Bratt.

Alongside financial contributions, the organisation is also looking to have people offer up their own ideas how to make the ‘web for all’ a success.

“Beyond financial contributions, what about contributions of intellectual capital?” Bratt asks on his blog. “It would be great to hear your ideas on how the community that is developing the Web used now by about 1/5th of the inhabitants of the planet could contribute their time and skills to bring the benefits of the Web to the other 4/5ths.”

In a separate move in a similar spirit, Google is supporting plans to bring the Internet to emerging markets including 3 billion people in Africa by launching 16 satellites to bring its services to the unconnected half of the globe. The search engine giant has joined forces with cable television magnate John Malone and HSBC to set up O3b Networks, named after the ‘other 3bn’ people for whom fast fibre internet access networks are not likely to be commercially viable.

They have ordered 16 low-earth orbit satellites from Thales Alenia Space as the first stage in a $750m project to connect mobile masts across many countries within 45 degrees of the equator to fast broadband networks.

Larry Alder, product manager in Google’s alternative access group, believes the project could bring the cost of bandwidth in such markets down by 95 per cent.

“This really fits into Google’s mission (to extend internet use) around the developing world,” the Financial Times reports him as saying.

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