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Cost of Internet Services Comes Down: ITU Report

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. Photo: ITU

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. Photo: ITU

Cost of Internet Services Comes Down: ITU Report

Cost, however, remains a major obstacle to Internet access, especially in low-income economies.

How much does it cost to have an internet connection?

The cost of Internet services has inched downward across the globe in 2022, according to Facts and Figures, the annual worldwide overview on the state of digital connectivity from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The Internet has become more affordable in all regions of the world and among all income groups, based on the assessment from ITU, the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Cost, however, remains a major obstacle to Internet access, especially in low-income economies. The current global economic situation – with high inflation, rising interest rates, and deep uncertainty – could add to the challenge of extending Internet reach in lower-income areas.

“The Internet may be more affordable overall, but for billions of people around the world, it is just as out of reach as ever,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “We need to keep Internet affordability moving in the right direction even as the global downturn cuts deeper into the economic prospects of many countries.”

ITU’s Facts and Figures series features estimates for key connectivity indicators for the world, regions, and selected country groups. The assessment provides context on the evolving digital divide while also reviewing progress towards closing it.

Earlier this year, ITU reported that 2.7 billion people – roughly one-third of the global population – remain unconnected to the Internet. The figure was an improvement from 2021 but revealed a levelling off from the strong connectivity gains made during the onset and height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Access to the Internet is increasing, but not as quickly and evenly across the world as it needs to,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau and ITU Secretary-General-elect. “Too many people still live in digital darkness. Our global challenge is to commit the resources that would allow everyone to benefit in a meaningful way from being connected.”

According to Facts and Figures 2022, the global median price of mobile-broadband services dropped from 1.9 percent to 1.5 percent of average gross national income (GNI) per capita. 

Mobile broadband allows users to access the Internet from a smartphone. The affordability of this service has become a benchmark for global Internet use, since it provides relatively inexpensive access compared to fixed Internet service.

Still, for the average consumer in most low-income economies, the cost of fixed or mobile broadband services remains too high.

A basic mobile data plan in these countries was found to cost on average 9 percent of average income. This represents a slight decrease from 2021, but it remains many times greater than the cost of similar services in higher-income countries.

The result is that those who can least afford broadband service – and that could benefit the most from it – are paying the highest amounts in relative terms.

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