The cost for Internet access differs significantly from one country to another. Take for instance the price for 1Mbps: it can cost $250 in Togo (TogoTelecom), and $445 in Niger (Orange Niger), but it can cost only $25 for an 8Mbps connection in France (Orange).

I’m citing a few examples from many, which Nnenna Nwakanma referred to during our IG webinar last week. Ms Nwakanma, council chair of FOSSFA, convener of the West Africa IGF, and director at Nnenna.Org, was the special host of our July webinar on ‘Cable connections and the cost of Internet access.’

It seems like the poorer the country, the higher the cost, Ms Nwakanma explained, referring to various reasons which typically lead to high costs.

Access fees paid by end-users cover a range of expenses and overheads, including the cost of bringing the cable inland, electricity, taxes, investment costs, and high prices due to a monopolistic environment, and/or low quality of service.

The existence of transit and peering agreements, which Ms Nwakanma explained in the light of a typical interconnection model made up of Tier 1, 2, and 3 networks, also affect access costs. Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) – which allow exchange of traffic at country level – also have a significant impact on both access costs and speed.

Costs related to the ‘last mile’ (or ‘local loop’ – the connection between the provider and the end-user) may be significant; at the same time, various solutions exist (such as wireless connections) which help solve access issues, even though the solutions may not necessarily come cheaper.

Issues related to access, including costs, are not ‘straightjacket’ situations, as Ms Nwakanma refers to them. Rather, there are many complex factors that come into play. Whether or not we can influence decisions directly, the least we can do is to become aware of them, and ask questions like: Are there any IXPs in my country? Are there any peering agreements? What am I really paying for through my connection bill?

You can listen to a live recording of the webinar (click below), in which our host discusses the issues in more detail, as well as many questions asked by the webinar participants. The questions that are discussed include: What are the connectivity solutions for island states? If users use services located in other countries (Facebook, Google), would such traffic still be exchanged by local IXPs? Whom can end-users turn to in order to apply pressure for reductions in costs? You can also download the PowerPoint Presentation here. To receive news, announcements and follow-up e-mails regarding our IG webinars, subscribe to our IG webinars group.

Comments

Nnenna (not verified)
For me, I have seen that many small governments do not/have not made adequate policy analyses of what I may tag the "digital economy". Man companies come in and the government s welcome them on the basis of 'investment'. This,in itself is not bad. What is sad is when key national development issues are left in the hands of these 'investors'. For an Investor, development means profit. But for government, it should be citizen empowerment, sustainable resource management, and raising not just the per capita income but also the Human Development Index
Maureen Hilyard (not verified)
We have just had the Pacific Forum where heads of all the Pacific Nations have gathered to discuss political issues that affect our region. The topic of the undersea cable and the urgency of a decision (imposed by the supplier who needs to know by the end of the year if countries want to commit to their plan)came up in their discussions. Your comment about the lack of policies relating to the digital economy and how it will impact on the important issues you mention, is absolutely correct. So how will they justify the major investment if there is no planning as to exactly how the country / region will benefit and at what cost to the consumers on small sparsely populated islands in the Pacific Ocean? I aim to put that to our Minister. Many thanks for your response.
Maureen Hilyard (not verified)
I listened to NNenna’s presentation and found the information about Africa and who owns the internet of great interest. Unfortunately I was unable to see the powerpoints but I was able to identify with the challenges and aim to be asking some of Nnenna’s challenging questions to our ISP. I found Nnenna’s comparison of costs really interesting. They really did demonstrate that the poorer nations, who are already struggling with the costs of electricity and hardware, are the ones who are having to pay huge costs for the minimal opportunity that they get to use the internet, while higher users in more affluent countries are paying next to nothing for the same usage. I can understand Nnenna’s despair when she recounted the names of the companies and countries who are benefitting from Africa’s poverty of access. I would like to thank Nnenna for her response to my questions. Having listened to her presentation about the world cable maps, I will try to access these (did she provide a link?). I will ask our Minister about what research has been done to compare cable vs satellite costs before he makes a major decision that might not only cost our small country millions of dollars initially, but also that the ongoing maintenance costs might still make internet connection too expensive for our tiny population (15000 in total) in the long term as well. There is still a lot to be done in the area of connectivity in the Pacific, and I really appreciate Diplo’s providing such activities as these webinars where I can learn more about how we can make things better for the people of our Pacific nations.

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