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UK gov't joins Google, Facebook in tackling Internet charges in developing world

Antony Savvas | Oct. 14, 2013
Other technology companies that are part of the campaign include Intel, Cisco, Yahoo, Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson

The UK is joining with the US government, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other technology firms to help bring down internet costs in developing countries.

The Alliance for Affordable Internet, founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee's World Wide Web Foundation, will work with governments across Africa and Asia to "take on unnecessary regulation and anti-competitive policies", said the UK government - even though it is many of those same governments who oversee telecoms monopolies and burgeoning red tape.

In many countries, said the UK, taxes on IT, powerful state telecoms monopolies and "other regressive policies" are helping to push up prices. In less developed countries a basic fixed line broadband connection costs around a third of monthly income, compared to around two percent in the developed world.

Approximately two-thirds of the world's people remain unconnected to the internet, entrenching a digital divide that hampers economic progress. The UN has set a target of entry-level broadband services priced at less than five percent of average monthly income.

Internet access is becoming increasingly important in the world's poorest countries as a tool to set up businesses and drive improvements in healthcare and education.

UK Department for International Development minister Justine Greening said: "Internet access has been a driver of economic growth. It puts power in the hands of people and opens up societies. Yet for millions of people across the world high prices still put it out of reach.

"This new alliance will challenge the anti-competitive regulations and policies that push up prices across the developing world, helping to bring universal internet access to the world's poorest people."

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web and founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, said: "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. In Mozambique, for example, a recent study showed that using just 1GB of data can cost well over two months wages for the average citizen."

Berners-Lee said high prices are widening the digital divide, which 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", he said.

Other technology companies that are part of the campaign include Intel, Cisco, Yahoo, Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson


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