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Media (R)evolutions: Making broadband policy universal for inclusive development

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

In order to ensure economic and social development is inclusive, all citizens, including the poor and those living in rural areas, must have access to information. Communication services, which includes mobile broadband, remains a crucial element in this goal. However, cost, competition, demand and affordability, and customer distribution (among others) all influence how telecommunication firms view the feasibility of providing specific technology services.

National broadband plans (NBPs) and universal access and service (UAS) policies that provide regulation, financing, and access goals are essential to ensuring that a country can provide broadband services. These policies, which can be tailored to ensure they will provide access to poor and rural communities, should not be viewed as an obligation but an opportunity for growth. The World Bank acknowledges this in the 2016 World Development Report: Digital Dividends:

Government policies and regulation of the internet help shape the digital economy. Particularly through their policies for the ICT sector, governments and regulatory agencies create an enabling environment for the private sector to build networks, develop services, and provide content and applications for users. Increasingly, governments seek to cooperate across borders on issues such as cybersecurity, privacy, and cross-border data flows. Internet-enabling policies have evolved over time, especially those for the ICT sector [...] Broadband internet, in particular, is seen as a general-purpose technology, essential for the competitiveness of nations, and governments have invested more than US$50 billion in broadband networks since 2009 as part of stimulus packages. Most also have national broadband plans.


With this in mind, the Broadband Commission tracks national progress towards a set of targets, the first of which is to make broadband policy universal. Advocacy target 1 states, “All countries should have a National Broadband Plan or strategy or include broadband in their UAS definitions.” According to its latest annual report, The State of Broadband: Broadband catalyzing sustainable development, growth in the number of countries with NBPs has progressed over the past eight-year period, but has stabilized in the past three. There are now 151 countries with a NBP, and 38 have not yet developed one. Azerbaijan is the most recent addition to the list of countries with an approved NBP, and another seven countries are planning to introduce one: Cape Verde, Cuba, Dominica, Iraq, Solomon Islands, Saint Lucia and Togo.


Although the Commission’s target on NBPs has not been fully achieved, there has been steady progress in the number of countries that have introduced a Plan.


 

While there is some evidence that adopting a NBP increases both mobile and fixed broadband penetration, debates continue as to the efficiency and effectiveness of NBPs for all countries. Nevertheless, according to a recent study by Nokia/ Diffraction Analysis, infrastructure sharing, public investment in both backbone and access networks, and inclusive plans for poorer customers were all found to be helpful in increasing efficiency and effectiveness within the ICT sector.

Other studies have indicated that creating service funds to finance ICT development in rural areas; commissioning demand and revenue projections for networks in less viable areas to determine policy intervention and the government assistance; and creating an enabling regulatory framework for UAS policies that takes into account spectrum frequency, licensing, media content, infrastructure sharing, and pricing are among the main regulatory challenges.



Source: The State of Broadband 2016: Broadband catalyzing sustainable development

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