WASHINGTON — Walmart, Microsoft and Amazon will jointly launch a plan-based Internet access service that can cover the cost of Internet and phone service for about one-third of American households.
The joint venture is a response to a shortage of affordable Internet plans in the United States, which has caused frustration among customers who were initially frustrated with the slow pace of broadband deployment.
It’s a win for consumers who are increasingly frustrated with slow Internet speeds and are increasingly willing to pay for fast Internet services.
“The Internet is a key part of the American economy,” Walmart said in a statement Thursday.
“The combination of Walmart’s commitment to delivering a high-quality service to its customers and Amazon’s commitment and support to the Internet, including through its purchase of Skybox, will ensure that customers are able to get the best quality of service and data at the lowest possible cost.”
Walmart said it will pay for the service from an investment in the company’s Skybox network, which includes the data center.
Microsoft will pay a fee for each consumer who gets Internet access through its Internet service.
The deal is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2017, the company said.
Amazon also will provide a $3.5 billion fund to help businesses that are hit by the shortage of high-speed Internet access.
Amazon is also offering its $5 per month Internet plan to consumers in the U.S. and Canada.
The company said it would also invest $250 million to expand its Internet reach to more than 50 million U.K. customers, which would add more than 10 million Internet users to the U-verse network.
The combined company would be the largest online retailer in the world, and could add more customers in the coming months, Amazon said.