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Tech rivals partner to bring affordable Web access to developing countries

The Alliance for Affordable Internet launches, aims to improve broadband Internet access in developing nations.

By KRISTEN BUTLER, UPI.com
Tech rivals partner to bring affordable Web access to developing countries
Palestinian school children study in a tent used as a classroom in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. (File/UPI/Ismael Mohamad) | License Photo

Tech rivals including Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have partnered to launch a global initiative to lower the cost of Internet access in developing nations.

The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), launched Monday in Nigeria, aims for an "open, competitive and innovative broadband market” to improve access, especially in Africa, where just 16 percent of the population is online.

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

“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,” Berners-Lee said in a statement.

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

The alliance is focused on achieving entry-level broadband access priced at less than 5 percent of monthly income. Currently households in the developing world pay on average 31 percent of monthly income for a fixed connection. The price of an entry-level mobile-broadband plan represents between 11 and 25 percent of monthly income in developing countries.

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On the partnership between some 30 private and public players to form the alliance, Jennifer Haroon, Access Principal at Google, said, “nearly two out of every three people don’t have access to the Internet -- this is a massive challenge that can’t easily be solved by a single solution or player."

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