China opens purse strings to boost In­ter­net us­age


China vowed on Wed­nes­day to in­vest hun­dreds of bil­lions of yuan in the com­ing years to in­crease In­ter­net speed and ex­pand broad­band ac­cess in ru­ral re­gions.

The coun­try plans to spend more than 430 bil­lion yuan ($70.4 bil­lion) this year and more than 700 bil­lion yuan in 2016 and 2017 on In­ter­net in­fra­struc­ture, ac­cord­ing to a guide­line is­sued by the State Coun­cil.

It said China will ac­cel­er­ate build­ing of high-speed broad­band net­works and im­prove In­ter­net ac­cess in more than 14,000 vil­lages by the end of 2015.

By the end of 2017, the av­er­age ca­ble broad­band speed for users in ma­jor cities will be in­creased to 30 megabytes per sec­ond, more than triple the cur­rent speed, while that in smaller cities will be up­graded to 20 mbps.

Ac­cord­ing to the guide­line, the tele­com mar­ket will con­tinue to be opened and more com­pe­ti­tion will be en­cour­aged, through poli­cies in­clud­ing ex­pand­ing a pi­lot scheme for broad­band ser­vices this year.

The State Coun­cil also vowed to ex­pand the 4G net­work to cover the whole of the coun­try by the end of 2017.

It urged tele­com op­er­a­tors to im­prove ser­vices and cut charges for In­ter­net us­age.

The guide­line came a month af­ter Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang crit­i­cized the coun­try’s In­ter­net for be­ing ex­pan­sive and slow.

An­a­lysts said faster and cheaper In­ter­net con­nec­tions will help pro­mote the coun­try’s “In­ter­net Plus” scheme, a new strat­egy in­tro­duced by Li in March to in­te­grate mo­bile In­ter­net, cloud com­put­ing and the In­ter­net of Things with mod­ern man­u­fac­tur­ing to form a new en­gine for growth.

As its eco­nomic growth has slowed, China is striv­ing to un­leash the eco­nomic po­ten­tial of its In­ter­net users, who num­bered 648 mil­lion at the end of 2014, the world’s largest on­line pop­u­la­tion.

Un­der an ac­tion plan is­sued by the Min­istry of Com­merce, China is aim­ing to in­crease its 2016 e-com­merce trans­ac­tions to 22 tril­lion yuan, from 13.4 tril­lion yuan recorded for 2014, and lift the an­nual value of on­line re­tail sales to 5.5 tril­lion yuan in 2016, up from 2.8 tril­lion yuan in 2014.

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