This year’s Affordability Report takes us back to basics by focusing on the overall industry costs associated with internet service provision, especially in areas with the lowest rates of access and adoption. We shed light on a number of critical issues and call attention to the fact that, while policies continue to improve on the whole, the pace of policy change remains far too slow to ensure affordable access for the billions still offline. We note that policies to expand and further develop infrastructure have stagnated and, in the case of island archipelago nations, the cost to provide mobile broadband data is multiple times the cost to do the same elsewhere. We provide specific recommendations and look forward to working with current and new partners to put these in practice to the benefit of the billions still unconnected.
- Policies to advance affordability have barely changed. Year after year, we have bemoaned the slow pace of policy change and urged policymakers to take needed action. Unfortunately, this year marks the slowest rate of improvement to date, with measures of the policy frameworks in place to enable greater affordability increasing by just 1% on last year.
- Over 60% of the countries studied have unaffordable internet. Just 24 of the 61 countries studied meet the “1 for 2” affordability target, meaning that more than 2.3 billion people are living in countries with internet that is not affordable. Across all 61 countries, 1GB of data costs over 5% of average monthly income
- Growth in the number of people using the internet has slowed. The UN originally estimated that we would achieve 50% global internet penetration by the end of 2017; a downturn in the growth of internet access and use means that we now don’t expect to reach that milestone until mid-2019.
- Island archipelago nations face the highest costs to connect. New, unique analysis on the industry costs incurred in the provision of internet service shows that the cost to provide one subscriber with mobile broadband data for a year in an island archipelago nation, like the Philippines, is nearly five times the cost to do the same in a coastal nation like Nigeria.
- Latin American countries once again dominate the 2018 Affordability Drivers Index. Though Malaysia took the top ADI spot this year, Latin American countries make up the rest of the top five. These countries show improvements across measures of access policy, including investments in public access, effective use of USAFs, smartphone adoption, and level of market competition among mobile operators.
- Across the board, policies to expand infrastructure have faltered. The majority of progress seen in ADI scores over the past five years has been driven by improvements in access policies. Policymakers must prioritise frameworks and resources needed to support the development of cost-effective infrastructure critical to reducing internet costs.