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Facebook exec: Our plan to get rid of internet dead zones is 'around the corner'

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent

Facebook’s director of connectivity programs, Yael Maguire, announced on Wednesday the next step in the social network’s ambitious goal of bringing the internet to everyone.  

At Facebook’s (FB) annual F8 conference, Maguire announced a set of new initiatives created by the Connectivity group, which he leads. One of the projects, called Terragraph, attempts to create a fast, wireless internet system in urban areas by making devices that act like wireless hots spot that go on lamp posts and other points around the city. The internet system, which Maguire promised is “just around the corner,” will cost an “an order of magnitude” less than the fiber optic-based internet systems popular in the US today.

“Our focus is on how to connect the unconnected or people who don’t have great connectivity today,” Maguire told Yahoo Finance, adding that such internet “dead zones” could happen in cities, as well as rural communities. “We want to make sure that anywhere you are, there aren’t dead zones, and you’re able to get the best possible speed ever. So the idea with Terragraph, is you want to take fiber, which is the normal way, the internet is distributed — underground and so forth — and make it wireless, so we can put internet everywhere in a dense city.”

Maguire also addressed two high-profile stumbles, including the loss of Facebook’s first satellite last fall when a Space X rocket carrying the $200 million project exploded, as well as a “structural failure” experienced during the first test run of Facebook’s Aquila drone.

“I think the most important thing is to learn from those setbacks, to manage them,” he acknowledged. “We operate by definition in a high-risk environment, right? Generally, with a lot of technology, and most things I think, there really isn’t a free lunch. If you want to do something that’s 10x better than everything that existed before, there’s going to be risk associated with that. If it’s 2x times better, chances are someone’s already done it already.”

He added: “So we have to go to the extreme and focus on technologies that are really different but also have a really high degree of potential for not working at all.”

JP Mangalindan is a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.  

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