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Facebook takes another crack at connecting India -- with cheap, not free Wi-Fi

The move comes months after company's controversial initiative for free but limited access was banned in India.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (right) met with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year.

Facebook

Facebook hasn't given up on getting more of India online, despite hitting a roadblock earlier this year.

The social media juggernaut said Monday it's in early stages of testing Express Wi-Fi, a new program to offer Indians "fast, reliable and affordable" data connections. Under the program, local telecom companies will provide internet access via local hotspots throughout rural India.

The company has already made progress. As part of testing, Facebook has "completed" the rollout of Express Wi-Fi in 125 rural areas in the country, the Economic Times reported.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

This is the social media giant's second attempt at connecting more Indians to the internet. The first was known as Free Basics, an initiative still running in many countries. Under Free Basics, Facebook provides people with free access to specific websites and services. Free Basics was given the ax in India earlier this year, with the local Telecom Regulatory Authority banning the service on the grounds that it violates net neutrality.

Express Wi-Fi isn't free, and it's unclear whether users get unfettered access to the internet.

"I want to personally communicate that we are committed to keep working to break down barriers to connectivity in India and around the world," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said after the ban on Free Basics in India. "We will keep working until everyone has access to the internet."

India, the world's second most populous nation, remains an important market for Facebook. More than 142 million users in the country sign in to the social network every month. Roughly 1 billion people in the country are still offline, giving Facebook and other companies a big opportunity to increase their user base.