Google, Facebook Partner with UK on Affordable Internet Initiative
The UK government, along with multiple technology companies, will be working to provide affordable Internet access to everyone, particularly in developing countries. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Intel are all supporting the initiative but Google appears to be at the front of the pack.
Both Google and Facebook have already publicly announced plans to provide Internet access to developing nations but this is the first time that they have come together with the UK. The high-tech companies announced the initiative, titled the Alliance for Affordable Internet, on Monday.
Helping Poorer Countries
Although there are some people in developed nations that lack affordable Internet access, the Alliance for Affordable Internet is primarily focused on helping the poorer countries. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the main proponent of the Alliance, cited some statistics which suggested that just 1GB of data can cost someone in Mozambique two months of their income.
Companies such as Google have been trying to figure out ways to actually get the Internet to people in developing countries, but the Alliance is focused more on changing policies in order to keep costs down. Berners-Lee points out “The real bottleneck now is anti-competitive policies that keep prices unaffordable. The Alliance is about removing that barrier and helping as many as possible get online at reasonable cost."
In the developing world, almost no one has access to the Internet and according to the UN, this is the result of high prices. Internet access costs around 30 percent of a person's monthly wage in these countries and the Alliance feels that the ridiculous prices are due to greed and bad policy.
Google was one of the first companies to spark the conversation regarding Internet access in the developing world. Google plans on providing Internet access to people in these countries by using balloons to beam wireless signals to people below, as well as by utilizing TV white spaces to connect people to the Internet.
Although it has not been talked about as much, Google's TV white spaces plan may be easier to implement than Project Loon, which has received an enormous amount of attention. By taking advantage of the unused channels on the TV spectrum, Google hopes to make high-speed Internet more accessible and is rolling out the project in South Africa.
Google's Project Loon was suddenly flung into the spotlight during the Summer when the company launched a pilot version of the program in New Zealand. Loon will attempt to connect people to the Internet by beaming wireless signals from balloons--which are stationed 60,000 feet above ground--to massive amounts of people.
Assuming that Project Loon works, and simple issues--such as the fact that balloons tend to drift--don't get in the way of it, the balloons could provide 3G-level speeds. Between Google's Project Loon and its TV white space plan, Google is certainly making affordable Internet access a top priority.