China pledges faster, cheaper Web access

Chinese government vows faster, cheaper Internet access to more users, amid complaints over high prices and low service standards by near-monopoly, report says.

China has vowed it will bring faster and cheaper Internet access to more people, in light of grievances that a near-monopoly controlled by state-backed companies has hurt service standards.

AFP reported Monday that China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) pledged to increase speed and lower prices as the Internet played a role in economic development.

Citing a government think-tank, the news wire noted the fees charged by Internet service providers in China are up to three or four times higher than countries such as the United States, Britain and Japan. Yet, the average broadband speed is less than a tenth of those countries.

China plans to bring Web access to its lagging Western provinces, rural areas, and poverty-stricken regions, the report said. It also set the target of adding 20 million households using fixed-line Internet access to the existing 156 million nationwide.

According to state media, discounts of up to 30 percent on Internet charges for public housing tenants in Shanghai came into effect last Sunday, AFP reported.

This comes after a government probe last November to investigate state-owned telco giants, China Telecom and China Unicom, for suspected monopoly violations related to their Internet broadband services.

Any penalties or punishment have yet to be publicly announced, AFP noted, however both companies have said they will lower prices after the probe, with China Telecom saying it slash prices by 35 percent over five years.

China has half a billion Internet users, the highest population worldwide.


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