UN targets global broadband boost over next few years

The United Nations has set 'ambitious' targets for greater broadband penetration around the world, including in developing countries.The UN's Broadband Commission for Digital Development, co-chaired by Rwandan president Paul Kagame and Carlos Slim Helú, the world's richest person, said on Tuesday that every country should have a national broadband plan by 2015.

The United Nations has set 'ambitious' targets for greater broadband penetration around the world, including in developing countries.

The UN's Broadband Commission for Digital Development, co-chaired by Rwandan president Paul Kagame and Carlos Slim Helú, the world's richest person, said on Tuesday that every country should have a national broadband plan by 2015. It also said that internet communications should be seen as a human need and a right.

By the same year, the commission's Broadband Challenge (PDF) states, regulation and market forces must make entry-level broadband services affordable in developing countries, with such services costing less than five percent of an average monthly income. As broadband services cost on average 17 percent of gross national income in developing countries in 2010, this could be seen as a tall order.

According to the UN commission, 40 percent of households and 50 percent of people in developing countries should have internet access by 2015, and overall 60 percent of people worldwide should be able to get online.

"These targets are ambitious but achievable, given the political will and commitment on the part of governments, working in partnership with the private sector," International Telecommunications Union (ITU) secretary-general Hamadoun Touré said in a statement. Touré is co-vice chair of the commission, serving alongside Unesco director-general Irina Bokova.

The ITU, which is a UN agency, will be responsible for reporting back on each country's progress and providing annual rankings that cover "broadband policy, affordability and uptake".

"The Broadband Challenge endorsed by the commission recognises communication as 'a human need and a right', and calls on governments and private industry to work together to develop the innovative policy frameworks, business models and financing arrangements needed to facilitate growth in access to broadband worldwide," the statement read.

The commission said governments should make it easy for new companies to enter the broadband market, and avoid "taxing ICT services unnecessarily". It also encouraged governments to "promote coordinated international standards for interoperability and to address the availability of adequate radio frequency spectrum".

"We note the importance of the guiding principles of fair competition for promoting broadband access to all. It is essential to review legislative and regulatory frameworks, many of which are inherited from the last century, to ensure the free and unhindered flow of information in the new virtual, hyper-connected world," the Challenge states.

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