Alliance forms to drive affordable internet in developing countries

A diverse group of private and public sector players, including Google and ‘father of the web’ Sir Tim Berners-Lee, have launched a coalition to lead policy and regulatory reform intended to drive down artificially high internet prices in developing countries.

The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) believes that by advocating for open, competitive and innovative broadband markets, access prices can be brought down below five per cent of monthly income worldwide – a target set by the UN Broadband Commission. Moreover, reaching this goal can help connect the two-thirds of the world that is presently not connected to the internet.

The Alliance was initiated by the World Wide Web Foundation and counts 30+ members reaching across boundaries of geography, industry, and organisation type, including governments, companies, and civil society organisations from both developed and developing countries. The honorary chairman of the Alliance is Dr Bitange Ndemo, the former Permanent Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communications, who is widely regarded as the ‘father of broadband’ in Kenya.

At the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation’s Annual Forum in Abuja, Nigeria, starting this week, the organisation said it will begin in-country engagements with three to four states by the end of 2013, expanding to at least twelve countries by the end of 2015.

Members have committed to a set of policy best practices that will guide advocacy work at the international level, with key policy levers to drive prices down including allowing innovative allocation of spectrum, promoting infrastructure sharing, and increasing transparency and public participation in regulatory decisions.

Africa Com takes place in Cape Town, November 12-14 2013

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, 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.

“The result of high prices is a widening 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. The real bottleneck now is anti-competitive policies and regulations that keep prices unaffordable. The Alliance is about removing that barrier and helping as many as possible get online at reasonable cost.”

The Broadband World Forum is taking place on the 22nd – 24th October 2013 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam. Click here to download a brochure for the event and here to register for a conference pass.

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