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Facebook’s Connectivity Lab comes back down to Earth

The company’s efforts to offer universal connectivity don’t all involve solar-powered, laser-Internet drones. At its F8 conference this morning, VP of engineering Jay Parikh announced two additional initiatives designed to bring the Internet to unserved or underserved areas. Both Terragraph (for urban areas) and ARIES (for sparsely populated places) involve new terrestrial, antenna-based technologies.

When the Connectivity Lab was getting going, Parikh told me, “some people thought there would be a one-size-fits-all magic bullet to connect everyone on the planet. But as you get into the science and engineering behind it, you understand that’s not possible.”

In an intriguing twist, Facebook is testing Terragraph in a city that doesn’t exactly suffer from a lack of connectivity: San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley. That doesn’t mean that it wants to bring the tech to areas where high-quality Internet access is already pervasive, Parikh says. But “it gives us a pretty tough audience to beat up on our technology and make it better.”HM