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Media (R)evolutions: The pace of policy change for Internet affordability too slow, study finds

Darejani Markozashvili'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.

According to the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), for the first time ever the internet penetration will surpass 50 percent in 2017. However, in order to reach the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of affordable, universal internet access by 2020 there is more work to be done. Especially in eliminating an existing digital gender gap, as those not connected tend to be women in developing countries unable to afford access to the Internet.

A4AI’s Affordability Report 2017 looks at the policy frameworks in place across 58 low and middle income countries and provides actionable steps countries need to take to enable affordable connectivity for all.


Source: Alliance for Affordable Internet

The policy recommendations of A4AI focus on employing public access solutions, promoting market competition, supporting community networks, partnering to develop technologies, incentivizing infrastructure and resource sharing, making effective use of universal service and access funds, and ensuring effective implementation.

The following is a direct long quote from the report:

 “• Employ Public Access Solutions to Close the Digital Divide
Public access solutions — including subsidised access in schools and local centres, public WiFi, and community networks — are critical to reach groups that cannot pay for regular internet use, even once prices have reduced to an affordable level. These programmes offer an untapped opportunity for making a significant dent in internet access and use targets, and should become a key focus for policymakers as they seek to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Foster Market Competition Through Smart Policy
Strong policies to promote healthy competition and protect consumers must be a priority for policymakers. Open and competitive markets provide the foundation for growth, innovation, and affordable access. Yet, antiquated policy frameworks remain in place across many countries, preventing competition from being a force of market change and allowing inefficient providers to dominate and keep prices high. Smart policy that enables the competition needed to drive prices down must be implemented urgently.

Implement Innovative Uses of Spectrum through Transparent Policy
Governments must ensure they have a detailed plan for allocating spectrum sufficient to meet projected increases in demand, with a clear timeline for implementation. Policymakers should also encourage innovative uses of spectrum to advance affordable access, whether by supporting community networks or partnering to develop new technologies.

• Take Urgent Action to Promote Infrastructure and Resource Sharing
Sharing is not easy, but with clear policy incentives and regulatory certainty, it provides operators the best option to reduce the cost of service provision, while also maintaining a healthy stream of revenue from market growth. Governments have a critical role in facilitating and incentivising resource sharing among market players.

• Make Effective Use of Universal Service and Access Funds
Universal Service and Access Funds (USAFs) — which collect contributions from operators in order to subsidise the expansion of telecommunications and internet in underserved communities — can be a powerful tool if well-managed and transparent. Unfortunately, some USAFs are totally inactive, while others have been poorly run. Governments must consider and implement solutions to these issues, including developing strategies for effective use of funds, timely publication of USAF monitoring and financial reports, and other information in open data formats.

• Ensure Effective Broadband Planning Turns Into Effective Implementation
Broadband plans are crucial to integrate and sequence the above reforms. Plans that set clear, time-bound and measurable targets are best of all, as targets provide accountability for translating plans into action.”

For the full report, regional snapshots and country-specific highlights visit Alliance for Affordable Internet.
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