India Tops US as Second Most Internet-Connected Nation

By Features PCmag

With 277 million Internet users, India surpassed the United States in 2015 as the world's second-most connected nation behind China, according to a report from the KPCB law firm. The firm estimated total global Internet use at 3 billion people, or 42 percent of the world's population.

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India and other developing nations are adding Internet users at a much faster rate than their developed counterparts. India's 2015 growth rate was 40 percent, compared to global growth that has hovered around 10 percent for the last four years.

Despite enormous user growth, barriers to Internet adoption in developing countries remain. For much of the rural developing world where broadband connections are scarce, smartphones are the only option.

Their cost is often prohibitive, though. In India, the average retail price of a smartphone was $158, according to KPCB. That's 10 percent of the country's per capita income. In Ethiopia, meanwhile, the average smartphone costs $262, 47 percent of per capita income.

In developed countries, average smartphone prices are more expensive but they represent a tiny fraction of per capita income, usually less than one percent, according to KPCB.

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Multiple efforts are underway to bring cheaper Internet access to those for whom expensive mobile connections are their only options. Facebook's Free Basics service is using a combination of satellites, landlines, and soon drones to expand broadband access to rural areas of the developing world. (Though it pulled out of India last year amidst government concerns over net neutrality).

A joint venture between a start-up and Airbus, meanwhile, plans to mass produce and launch more than 900 satellites into near-Earth orbit. While some of their bandwidth will be rented out to the highest bidder, most of it will go towards blanketing the Earth with speedy and affordable Internet signals.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.