How much is too much for Internet access?

By Zhang Xi (
Updated: 2007-05-18 15:18

The World Bank recently released a report called "China's Information Revolution: Managing the Economic and Social Transformation". It reveals that Internet service fees in developed countries only account for less than one percent of people's incomes, while Chinese users need to pay over 10 percent of their incomes. This is much higher than the world's average level.

This report made Chinese experts and web surfers appeal for a lower Internet fee. In order to find out whether Chinese net services cost much more than other countries, People's Daily interviewed 10 people in 10 countries.

China: 83.5 yuan (US$10.85) per person per month

According to China Internet Association, there are 137 million netizens in the mainland, who pay 83.5 yuan a month on average to get online. But the prices vary in different areas. For example, people in Ningbo in eastern China's Zhejiang province pay 88 yuan/month, while their counterparts in Beijing need to pay 188 yuan for the same service.

The reporter interviewed 10 Beijing residents and half of them complained about the high costs of the Internet service. Zhao Qing, a fresh graduate spends 120 yuan a month for Internet access, which accounts for six percent of her monthly salary. "Besides this 120 yuan, I have to pay for life necessities and rent. It is nearly impossible to do other things with the little money left. I really need a cheaper Internet service," explained Zhao.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics in 2006 show the per capita disposable income of urban residents was 11,759 yuan per year, while those of rural households was 3,587 yuan. And the monthly income of Beijingers was about 1,667 yuan.

USA: US$40 per month

Because of severe competition, American telecom companies often provide discounts to users. For example, Tennessee resident Mandy originally had to pay US$40 for her family's monthly Internet service, but since she also buys cable TV service from the same company, she only needs to pay US$25 for Internet access every month, which to her, is a good bargain.

"I can buy a pair of Nike sneakers at US$25, or have a nice buffet with my husband. My family earns US$10,000 monthly so we can accept the cost. But US$ 40 per month to get onto the Internet is too expensive," said Mandy.

Japan: 3,370 yen (US$27.78) per month

According to the Japanese government, the country started providing the world's cheapest Internet services in 2002. Four years later, web surfers only need to pay 3,370 yen for a router and monthly Internet service. An office clerk in Tokyo told People's Daily the fee accounts for merely one percent of his monthly salary. He describes it this way: "If a Chinese earns 3,000 yuan a month, he just needs to spend 30 yuan on the Internet. Isn't it so cheap?" he asked.

Germany: Euro 31(US$41.82) per month

A man works in a tourist agency in Berlin is enjoying the wireless Internet service at Euro 31 per month. He explained, "I can buy eight packs of cigarettes in a gas station or have a nice dinner in a restaurant at that price. My monthly net income is Euro 1,309, so the cost of Internet access is quite acceptable."

UK: 25 pounds (US$49.36) per month

The British can enjoy high-speed Internet at 25 pounds a month, which is not a big deal for a middle-class family with a 40,000-50,000 pounds annual income.

Also, telecom companies compete with each other by offering discounts. Londoner Hanson is the owner of a small supermarket and he uses an Internet service provided by a big UK telecom company, which also offers cell phone services. "I spend 30 pounds a month on its mobile service so I only need to pay another 5 pounds per month for the Internet. If one pays more for the mobile service, he or she can enjoy a free Internet service. "

Belgium: Euro 30 (US$40.48) per month
In Belgium, the average cost for Internet access is Euro 40 a month, accounting for three percent of a low-income earner's monthly salary after tax. But the Internet cost can vary depending on what people are doing online.

"Different services cost differently. For example, I only spend Euro 30 a month on the Internet to check information. But for people who often download movies, the monthly cost is Euro 80," a government officer in Brussels explained to People's Daily.

South Korea: 30,000 won (US$32.49) per month

The monthly cost of Internet access is 1.5 percent of a middle-income person's salary. "People can only buy 30 radishes at 30,000 won in Seoul," an engineer said. "This is due to competition between the various telecom companies."

France: Euro 40 (US$53.97) per month

The Euro 40 Internet cost per month only accounts for three percent of the Euro 1,400 minimum monthly salary in France. With Euro 40, a person in Paris can eat two burgers at a fast food restaurant; buy 20 kg tomatoes or two bottles of champagne.

"If you don't mind the poor service, you can get cheaper Internet access at Euro 30 a month," said a Parisian.

Australia: $A60 (US$49.36) per month

Most Australians earn $A4,000 monthly and they choose to spend 1.5 percent of their income, which is $A60 every month on Internet service. A housewife in Canberra told the reporter, "I can buy 12 kg meat or 24 bottles of 2L orange juice with the same amount of money."

India: 600 rupees (US$14.7) per month

A national survey reveals the average cost of the Internet service is 600 rupees, which is 20 percent of the average monthly income in India.

A vice professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University said 600 rupees is his monthly food budget, so he can't afford to get Internet access at home. For many Indian families, it's a luxury to surf the Internet at home.

To solve the problem, the Indian government promised to offer free broadband service to the public in two years. Although many Indians doubt this will really happen, the government says it's determined to carry this plan through.

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