Facebook CEO Ready to Spend Billions to Spread Web Access

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., speaks at Billionaire Carlos Slim's Telmex Foundation annual event for scholarship students in Mexico City on Sept. 5, 2014. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg

Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said he’s willing to spend whatever it takes to spread Internet access around the world.

“We feel a big responsibility to bring the Internet to more people,” Zuckerberg said at an event organized by Carlos Slim, chairman emeritus of America Movil SAB, in Mexico City. “Even if Facebook has to spend billions of dollars” to make it happen, he said.

Facebook already connects almost half of the world’s Internet-connected population on its social network, with 1.3 billion users. The more people that are connected to the Web, the more room Facebook has to grow -- especially after its planned $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp Inc., a messaging application for mobile phones.

“I think WhatsApp is going to be the global text messaging platform,” Zuckerberg said. “I think we’re going to have an opportunity for WhatsApp to connect 2 or 3 billion people.”

In February, when Facebook announced the deal to buy WhatsApp, Zuckerberg said his goal was for the messaging service to reach 1 billion users. Last month, the company said its active user base expanded to 600 million people.

Zuckerberg last year started the Internet.org initiative for connecting the world on mobile devices. The company is working on projects to deliver the Internet to underserved areas by building drones, satellites and lasers.

Facebook’s board members have asked Zuckerberg whether there’s money to be made in his initiative for connecting the world. He has said if it helps develop local economies, it can help Facebook’s business.

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