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Tech Giants Turn Focus to Affordable Internet Access in Developing Countries

Posted by Mark J. Miller on October 8, 2013 07:22 PM

A common conversation for those who have home Internet access is the insanely-high sum they are paying to have that service, but whatever the amount, it doesn’t come close to what people in developing nations pay. According to the International Telecommunication Union, households in developing nations can shell out about a third of their monthly paychecks just to be online.

As it is, about two thirds of the world’s population can’t get online, and pricing remains one of the biggest hurdles. So Google and a number of major brands including Yahoo, Cisco Systems, Facebook and Microsoft have teamed up to create the Alliance for Affordable Internet, otherwise known as A4AI, InfoWorld reports

"Imagine a world where you spent 30 percent of your monthly income on basic Internet service," Jennifer Haroon, Google's Access Principal, wrote on Google’s Public Policy blog. "Could you pay? What might you have to give up? For billions of people, these costs—and questions—are an unaffordable reality that stops them from accessing the Web."

The goal of A4AI, which is headed by one of the internet's founders, Tim Berners-Lee, is to get the price of Internet access down to less than 5 percent of a person’s monthly income in developing countries through policy and regulatory adjustments. "The reason for the alliance is simple—the majority of the world's people are still not online, usually because they can't afford to be," Berners-Lee said in a statement. “The result of high prices is a digital divide that slows progress in vital areas such as health, education and science. Yet with the advent of affordable smartphones, new undersea cables and innovations in wireless spectrum usage, there is simply no good reason for the digital divide to continue.” A4AI will start its work in three or four countries before year’s end and will be working in at least 12 by the end of 2015, ZDnet reports.

The regulatory effort follows similar endeavors by both Google and Facebook to find ways to bring the internet to remote places, whether it be by "a network of hot air balloons," via Google's Project Loon or creating greater access to mobile internet, which is being spearheaded by Mark Zuckerberg's Internet.org initiative

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