President López Obrador spoke to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg via video link yesterday and asked him to partner with Mexico to expand internet coverage across the country.
“If you consider it interesting, we invite you to participate to form a partnership. It would be something extraordinary if Facebook helped in the communication, in the connectivity of Mexico, especially for the benefit of the poor,” the president said.
In a video posted to social media, which only shows López Obrador’s pitch to Zuckerberg and not the latter’s response, the president set out the shortcomings of internet coverage.
He said coverage is limited to 20% of Mexico’s territory, where 80% of the population lives.
The other 20% – the country’s “poorest” people – don’t have access, the president said.
“Our intention is to connect all the towns, close to 300,000 locations that don’t have [internet] communication,” López Obrador said.
The president explained that the national electricity grid covers 95% of Mexico’s territory, adding that “we want to take advantage of that infrastructure so that with optical fiber, and possibly antennas, we can communicate.”
“It’s a program to communicate and inform, to improve education and health,” López Obrador said.
He told Zuckerberg that his government’s aim is to implement a non-profit project to provide internet services at very low costs to Mexico’s most marginalized people, adding, “your support is very important for us.”
In a social media post accompanying the video of his remarks, López Obrador extolled the virtues of internet connectivity.
“There’s no need to travel abroad frequently, now we can communicate through video conference,” he said.
The president’s conversation with the 35-year-old Facebook chief follows his announcement last month of the creation of a new state-owned company to provide internet services.
“With all respect, what are we going to say to the companies that have had the [internet] concessions and haven’t connected the country? Step aside because the government is now going to have a company to connect all Mexicans to the internet, that’s the commitment,” López Obrador said at an event in Nayarit on May 11.
The president, an avid social media user, also revealed yesterday that his YouTube channel – on which his daily press conferences are transmitted – will be awarded with a “gold-play button” in recognition of passing one million subscribers.
López Obrador said that his spokesman, Jesús Ramírez, will attend a ceremony at which the “button” will be symbolically conferred.
“I very much thank those from YouTube, Twitter and Face[book], they behave very well, they’re advancing communication a lot and above all the debate is good, sometimes the tone rises, it heats up, everyone participates [and] expresses themselves . . . even the bots participate,” he said.
A report published by Bloomberg in April said that a hate-filled campaign against reporters who question or criticize the president appears to be widely driven by bots.