Google Joins Group Pushing for Cheaper Internet in Developing Nations

Google is one of some 30 members of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, a new coalition formed to help citizens in developing nations use the Internet to prosper.

Google has joined a new global coalition that aims to help people in developing countries find affordable Internet access so they can become more involved in new opportunities in the global economy.

The new group, called Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), was unveiled in an Oct. 7 post by Google Access Principal Jennifer Haroon on the Google Public Policy Blog.

"Imagine a world where you spent 30 percent of your monthly income on basic Internet service," wrote Haroon. "Could you pay? What might you have to give up? For billions of people, these costs—and questions—are an unaffordable reality that stop them from accessing the Web."

Now, in an effort to lower the cost of Internet access in developing nations so that it is more affordable for people with low incomes, Google has joined the group with some 30 other partners to help push policies that will make their goals reachable, wrote Haroon.

"New technologies play a crucial role in bringing the Internet to more people worldwide,"' wrote Haroon. "These technologies can have major impact, but no single solution can connect the 5 billion people living without Internet access today."

That's where policy changes are needed around the world to help close the gap, she wrote. "Policy change can help new innovation take hold and flourish; outdated policies can stifle progress. In Kenya and other markets that have adopted national broadband plans, policy change has delivered results, fast. A4AI will focus on those policy changes that can bolster new access technologies and initiatives and make the Internet more affordable to people worldwide."

The A4AI was started by the World Wide Web Foundation, and it includes members from the technology, government and nonprofit worlds, from developed and developing countries, wrote Haroon. In addition to Google, other members of the group include Facebook, The Ford Foundation, Ericsson, The Internet Society, Microsoft, Yahoo, the U.K. Department for International Development and the U.S. State Department.

Among the group's initial goals, wrote Haroon, are efforts to get Internet availability for users at prices that are less than 5 percent of a user's monthly income, which would make it more affordable. Recent International Telecommunication Union (ITU) statistics indicate that "households in the developing world pay roughly 30 percent of monthly income for a fixed connection, so there's a lot of work to do," she wrote. "Ultimately, A4AI is about making the world a more connected place. Over 90 percent of people in the 49 least developed countries are still not online. A4AI wants to help people in these countries to get access, to find a door to new information, opportunities, and ideas."

The new coalition wants to "lead policy and regulatory reform and spur action to drive down artificially high internet prices in developing countries," according to a statement by the group. To do this, the group said it will advocate for open, competitive and innovative broadband markets to help reach that price of 5 percent of monthly income, which is a target set by the United Nations Broadband Commission. "Reaching this goal can help to connect the two-thirds of the world that is presently not connected to the internet (source: ITU) and make universal access a reality."

A Google spokesperson could not be reached by eWEEK for further comment on the new group. A coalition representative also could not be reached.

In September 2012, Google was named a charter member of the new Internet Association, a trade association that directly represents companies that conduct their business online, as well as their customers and partners. The group, which also includes powerful online companies such as Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Salesforce and Yahoo, has been organizing to ensure that their business concerns and interests are being heard and recognized by political leaders across the United States. The group has a three-pronged policy platform: protecting Internet freedom, fostering innovation and economic growth, and empowering users.