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Help the Next Billion People Come Online—Google and Facebook’s Endeavor to Make Affordable Internet for All


*Image source:Mashable

Recently, several of the biggest names in tech and Internet, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the Internet), have signed on to a new initiative—Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI)—to bring down the Internet costs in the developing countries.

According to the data from International Telecommunication Union, broadband cost in developed countries is about 1.7% of average monthly incomes as of 2012, while this figure is 30.1% in developing countries. At the same time, only 16% of people in Africa are using the Internet and the penetration is only half of that in Asian-Pacific region.

“The reason to initiate the Alliance is simple—the majority of the world’s people are still not online, mainly because they can’t afford to be,” Berners-Lee noted in a statement. “The high prices results in a digital divide that slows down progress in essential areas such as health, science and education. We have already had affordable smartphones, new undersea cables and innovations in wireless spectrum usage, there is no reason for the digital divide to continue.”

A4AI has a specific goal—pushing the cost of Internet access down to less than 5% of monthly incomes worldwide.

How to lower the Internet cost

A4AIplans to push for policy measures like “promoting infrastructure sharing” and “innovative allocation” of broadband spectrum to help lower the costs.

Google is one of the initiative members of A4AI, suggesting the Google is providing huge support in terms of funding and technology. Other initiative members include UK Aid, US Aid, Microsoft, Yahoo, Cisco as well as investment companies such as Omidyar Network.

It is not the first time that Google plans to bring the Internet to developing countries. Project Loon, is aimed to connect rural areas by building a network of balloon. In addition, Google also hopes to bring broadband resources to Africa by using available television broadcast bands.

The Alliance will launch the program in two to three countries and by 2015, the goal is to reach at least 10 countries. The Alliance will also report affordability annually, with the first report coming in later December.

Hillary Clinton, the former U.S. Secretary of States, first mentioned the plan to construct a joint Internet Alliance between public and private institutions shortly before she stepped down from her position in this February. At the time, she noted, “We are going to help the next billion people come online.” The big names’ endeavor, with no doubt, push forward this process.