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    In Cuba, connecting to the Internet costs four times the average annual salary

    In Cuba, connecting to the Internet costs four times the average annual
    By Caitlin Dewey, Published: October 8 at 12:23 pm

    Broadband prices have fallen across the board since 2008, but remain
    higher in the developing world. (ITU)

    You might not guess it from your Internet bill, but the United States
    has some of the cheapest broadband in the world — right up there with
    Kazakhstan, India and Bangladesh.
    That’s one of many surprising, and occasionally puzzling, revelations in
    a new report from the International Telecommunication Union, which
    tracks the use, cost and penetration of information networks around the
    world. Many of the overarching trends the ITU identifies are likely
    things you’ve heard before: Internet use is growing, particularly on
    phones; growth has plateaued a bit in developed countries; a huge gap
    remains between the most and least wired nations. That gap has, more or
    less, Western and wealthy Asian countries on the more wired end of the
    spectrum, with African and poorer Asian countries on the other.

    But there are some surprises — like where Internet access is most
    expensive. While a number of factors play into the cost of getting
    online, geography seems to matter quite a bit, at least on the extreme
    ends of the spectrum. Island nations have more expensive Internet,
    perhaps because of the unusual cost of running the infrastructure into
    the country. These are the countries where a monthly fixed broadband
    subscription is most expensive, as measured by its normalized (i.e., at
    purchasing power parity) cost. The first number is the cost of Internet
    access, relative to the average purchasing power in that country. The
    second number is the absolute cost.
    1. Eritrea, 1596.50 ($1,951.67 USD)
    2. Cuba, no cost PPP ($1,760.45)
    3. Democratic Republic of the Congo, 650.91 ($400.22)
    4. Kiribati, 615.46 ($428.28)
    5. Solomon Islands, 502.61 ($259.17)
    6. Papua New Guinea, 271.10 ($185.58)
    7. Timor-Leste, 175.44 ($99.00)
    8. Sao Tome and Principe, 163.14 ($116.77)
    9. Vanuatu, 158.75 ($105.17)
    10. Madagascar, 132.72 ($63.70)

    Notice that eight of the top 10 are islands — more on that later. Now
    here are the countries where a monthly subscription is cheapest in
    dollar terms. Most of these are poorer countries, with the obvious and
    significant exception of the U.S.:
    1. Sri Lanka, 8.94 ($4.51)
    2. Macao China, 9.30 ($7.86)
    3. Maldives, 11.46 ($8.22)
    4. Bangladesh, 11.79 ($4.65)
    5. India, 14.37 ($6.01)
    6. United States, 14.95 ($14.95)
    7. Kazakhstan, 15.44 ($13.16)
    8. Bosnia and Herzegovina, 15.68 ($8.32)
    9. Uruguay, 16.33 ($14.91)
    10. Ukraine, 15.10 ($7.53)

    Of course, the raw cost of an item is less telling than the
    affordability — that is, the cost relative to the typical income in
    that country, which the report calculates as a percentage of the gross
    national income per capita. These are the places with the most
    affordable Internet in the world by that metric. Macao, a city-sized
    Special Administrative Region in China, is the cheapest, with Internet
    costing only 0.2 percent of the average resident’s annual income. You
    can see that richer countries tend to do well here, perhaps because the
    state buys lots of infrastructure on the front end that makes it more
    affordable for individual buyers.
    1. Macao China — .2% of GNI per capita
    2. Kuwait — .4%
    3. United States — .4%
    4. Switzerland — .6%
    5. Luxembourg — .6%
    6. Andorra — .6%
    7. United Kingdom — .7%
    8. Japan — .7%
    9. Norway — .7%
    10. Hong Kong — .7%

    And these are the countries where a monthly subscription is most
    expensive, by percentage of income. Cuba is by far the most expensive;
    Internet access there is almost four times the average national income:
    1. Cuba — 386.9% of GNI per capita
    2. Solomon Islands — 280.2%
    3. Afghanistan — 221.3%
    4. Niger — 210.2%
    5. Madagascar — 177.8%
    6. Malawi — 169.7%
    7. Papua New Guinea — 150.5%
    8. Mozambique — 149.3%
    9. Sao Tome & Principe — 103.0%
    10. Togo — 101.2%

    What’s going on here? On the most fundamental level, it’s often an issue
    of supply, demand and competition. Macao, which sits amid the web of
    underseas fiber-optic cables that connect China, Japan, Singapore and
    the Phillipines, has vastly more Internet infrastructure than the
    Solomon Islands. It also has lots of competition among Internet
    providers, simply because there are enough people to support it. The
    Solomon Islands, on the other hand, are just linking up to the cable
    that connects Sydney and Guam. There seems to be a similar situation in
    other parts of the developing world, where more than half the population
    lives in rural areas — making them costlier to wire to the Internet, in
    both absolute and per-customer terms. That keeps prices high and
    adoption low.

    There are a vast array of other factors at work, of course. Things like
    literacy, education and poverty help determine how many people have the
    skills and disposable income to support a local Internet industry.
    Industry liberalization and privatization also tend to drive costs down,
    as do national policies that support a strong infrastructure or promote
    Internet literacy. Bahrain, for instance, saw a big year-over-year jump
    in its cellphone penetration rate after passing a policy that let users
    keep their number when they switched providers. Costa Rica’s mobile
    penetration more than doubled after 2008, when the country passed a law
    ending a long-standing monopoly there.
    Meanwhile, Cuba’s Internet remains so wildly expensive because it’s only
    available to the average person at 118 government-run cafes, where
    computers cost $4.50 an hour to use. By comparison, CNN reported in
    August, the average state employee makes about $20 a month.
    The good news is that the Internet has gotten dramatically more
    affordable worldwide over the past five years — down from 115.1 percent
    of GNI per capita in 2008 to just 22.1 percent in 2012. That, along with
    infrastructure expansion and tech-friendly policy, has allowed 40
    percent of the world’s population to get online.
    Of course, that still leaves the other 60 percent — to say nothing of
    the 39 “least connected countries,” or LLCs, where Internet penetration
    and participation is particularly low. Fortunately, current trends
    project those countries to adapt both fixed and mobile broadband pretty
    rapidly, even as growth in more developed countries plateaus. In Africa,
    for instance, Internet penetration has doubled in the past four years.
    That’s pretty good.

    *Caitlin Dewey*is a social media reporter on the Digital Audience team.
    Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at
    Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. She has also written for The New York
    Times, The Atlantic and other publications.

    Source: “In Cuba, connecting to the Internet costs four times the
    average annual salary” –