The D.C.-based coalition — which includes Google, Intel, the Department for International Development in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), USAID, Omidyar Network, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and the Ford and Grameen foundations, among others — will advocate for policy and regulatory reforms that drive down artificially high Internet access prices in developing countries. By encouraging the innovative allocation of frequency spectrum, promoting infrastructure sharing, and increasing transparency and public participation in regulatory decisions, the coalition hopes to push broadband access costs below 5 percent of average global monthly income — a target that, if achieved, would make it possible for the two-thirds of the world's population not currently connected to the Internet to get online.
Announced at CTO's annual forum in Abuja, Nigeria, A4AI's plans include launching in-country engagements with three or four developing countries by the end of 2013 and at least twelve by the end of 2015. Coalition members have committed to a set of best practices to guide their work at the international level and to producing an annual "Affordability Report," the first of which will be released in December.
"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," said Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and founder of the World Wide Web Foundation. "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."