Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Intel, Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, African ISP MainOne, Caribbean carrier Digicel and a number of other technology companies and suppliers launched Association for Affordable Internet, to drive the cost of universal broadband access down and eliminate the world’s digital divide.
The group chose Nigeria as its launchpad highlighting the need for open, competitive and innovative broadband pricing in all markets. It wants to help access prices fall to below 5 per cent of monthly income worldwide, a target set by the UN Broadband Commission.
“A4AI has a specific goal in mind: to reach the UN Broadband Commission target of entry-level broadband access priced at less than 5% of monthly income worldwide,” said Jennifer Haroon, principal executive of Google’s access program, in a blog post. The UN’s International Telecommunications Union said a fixed Internet connection in developing economies costs about six times that, or about 30 percent of monthly income.
The organization plans to engage with 10 countries by the end of 2015, Haroon said. It’s got advice on good regulatory practices (PDF) for matters such as managing wireless spectrum, licensing network operators, avoiding “excessive” import taxes on telecommunications gear that might otherwise face luxury-product tariffs.
Bringing Internet access can have many effects over how people do business, connect socially, and as evidenced by Arab Spring, govern themselves. For high-tech companies, it also can mean poor countries become growth markets.
The launch of the alliance follows the creation in August of Internet.org, a global partnership spearheaded by Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg who wants to bring the internet to the those that don’t yet have it – which the organisation estimates to be two thirds of the world.
Together with other tech giants, including Samsung, Nokia, Qualcomm and Ericsson, Internet.org intends to simplifying phone applications so they run more efficiently and improve the components of phones and networks so that they transmit more data while using less battery power, among other initiatives.