Google, USAID launch group to expand Internet access globally

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The group was initiated by the World Wide Web Foundation and its director Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web.

A4AI’s 30 members include Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Intel, the U.S. State Department and the Internet Society.

The group hopes to bring the cost of Internet access down to below 5 percent of monthly worldwide income, reflecting a price goal set by the U.N. Broadband Commission.

It will begin working with three or four countries this year and plans to engage with at least 12 countries by 2015.

“Key policy levers to drive prices down include allowing innovative allocation of spectrum, promoting infrastructure sharing, and increasing transparency and public participation in regulatory decisions,” the release said.

A4AI will produce an annual report on affordability of Internet access. The first report will be released in December.

“The majority of the world’s people are still not online, usually because they can’t afford to be,” Berners-Lee said in a statement.

“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, blaming the high prices on “anti-competitive policies.”

“The Alliance is about removing that barrier and helping as many as possible get online at reasonable cost,” he said.