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China has pledged to increase broadband speeds and reduce the price of internet services in the country, which can be up to four times more expensive than those in rival countries including the UK and US.

AFP reported that the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology wants to close the digital divide in the west of the country, as well as rural and poverty-stricken areas.

It made the assurances in the face of growing complaints that the near monopoly of state-run service providers China Telecom and China Unicom is affecting services.

The two have reportedly already been investigated by the government and have pledged to lower prices but fees remain high while speeds lag.

The report claims that prices can be three or four times higher than those in Britain, the US and Japan.

The most recent Akamai State of the Internet report for Q3 put average connection speeds for Chinese users at just 1.4 Mbps, although this was a 21 per cent increase over the previous quarter. China and India remain the only two countries surveyed in the report which have less than one per cent penetration of high speed (over 5Mbps) broadband services.

With the government focussed on economic growth, China’s incumbent service providers can probably expect more pressure from the authorities to improve access and speeds while lowering costs, although growth so far has been impressive considering the size of the country.

A new report from ABI Research on Monday found that China leads Asia Pacific in the number of new subscribers added in Q1 2012.

The Chinese government also allocated 80 per cent of its $303 billion infrastructure investment for broadband development and China Telecom is aiming for 100 million fibre broadband subscribers by the end of 2015, the report revealed. ®

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