Web alliance seeks affordable Internet access for the poor

Oct 07, 2013
This photo made January 27, 2011 shows Nigerian villagers at a solar-powered mobile internet cafe in Embakasi

Accessing the Internet in the developing world is unnecessarily expensive, partly due to government policies that hinder competition and should be scrapped, a new alliance backed by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft said Monday.

The Alliance for Affordable Internet, which launched in Nigeria's capital, said it will push for an "open, competitive and innovative market" to boost access, especially in Africa, where only 16 percent of the population is online.

Other members of the alliance include the British and US development agencies, as well as Facebook and the inventor of the World Wide Web, Britain's Tim Berners-Lee.

"There is simply no good reason for the digital divide to continue," Berners-Lee said in a statement, arguing that the infrastructure and technology needed to fully connect poorer countries was increasingly in place.

"The real bottleneck now is anti-competitive policies and regulations that keep prices unaffordable. The alliance is about removing that barrier," he added.

The initiative's executive director, Sonia Jorge, told AFP that Ethiopia's telecommunication policy "is an example of exactly what you don't want to see."

The state operator, Ethio Telecom, holds a near monopoly as a broadband service provider and the cost of connection is among the highest in the world when compared to monthly income, according to the US watchdog Freedom House.

Despite its roughly 90 million people, Ethiopia had only 27,000 broadband subscriptions in 2011. Significant price reductions were announced last year in an effort to boost access, however.

The alliance said its goal is to reduce the cost of access to below five percent of monthly income worldwide.

In developed countries, people in 2012 spent on average 1.7 percent of monthly income for broadband while in the developing world the figure was 30.1 percent, according to the new group.

Prices have gone down in several areas, in part due to infrastructure improvements, including under-sea cables.

Following its Monday launch in Nigeria, the group will begin working in four countries, campaigning for liberal, open-market policies where private firms freely compete to provide lower cost broadband services.

"It is important that the playing field is level," Jorge told AFP.

In some African , despite a flurry of new players in the market offering a range of services many feel "that prices haven't really changed that much," Jorge said, adding the competition policies may need to be refined so that people actually "reap the benefit."

Explore further: The Internet in kentucky: Life in the slow lane for many

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Third of world's population has Internet: UN

Oct 11, 2012

More than a third of the world's population is online while mobile phone uptake increased by more than 600 million in 2011 to around six billion, a UN agency said Thursday.

China vows faster, cheaper Internet

Apr 02, 2012

China has said it will aim to bring faster and cheaper Internet access to more people, following complaints that a near monopoly by state-backed firms had hurt service.

The Internet in kentucky: Life in the slow lane for many

Oct 03, 2013

The Internet has become an important source of information for employment, health, news, entertainment, and shopping. And while many of these activities can be easily performed with a basic level of broadband speed, an increasing ...

China broadband to get faster, cheaper

Dec 02, 2011

Two government-owned Chinese telecom firms said Friday they would raise the speed of their broadband services while lowering their costs over the next five years, state-run media reported.

Recommended for you

Oculus unveils new prototype VR headset

14 hours ago

Oculus has unveiled a new prototype of its virtual reality headset. However, the VR company still isn't ready to release a consumer edition.

Wireless sensor transmits tumor pressure

20 hours ago

The interstitial pressure inside a tumor is often remarkably high compared to normal tissues and is thought to impede the delivery of chemotherapeutic agents as well as decrease the effectiveness of radiation ...

Tim Cook puts personal touch on iPhone 6 launch

22 hours ago

Apple chief Tim Cook personally kicked off sales of the iPhone 6, joining in "selfies" and shaking hands with customers Friday outside the company's store near his Silicon Valley home.

Team improves solar-cell efficiency

Sep 19, 2014

New light has been shed on solar power generation using devices made with polymers, thanks to a collaboration between scientists in the University of Chicago's chemistry department, the Institute for Molecular ...

Calif. teachers fund to boost clean energy bets

Sep 19, 2014

The California State Teachers' Retirement System says it plans to increase its investments in clean energy and technology to $3.7 billion, from $1.4 billion, over the next five years.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

xX_GT_Xx
not rated yet Oct 07, 2013
There we go. Cheap Internet access. Poverty solved.