United Nations Commission Sets Global Broadband Targets

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: The Broadband Commission for Digital Development has agreed on a set of four “ambitious but achievable” new targets for countries to ensure broadband access, the International Telecommunications Union says. The new targets cover broadband policy, affordability and uptake.

The commission is recommending that broadband policy be universal, and that by 2015, all countries have a national broadband plan or strategy in their Universal Service definitions. Entry-level service should also be made affordable by the same year through “adequate regulation and market forces,” the group says, setting a theoretical bar at 5 percent of average monthly income. Also by 2015, the commission says 40 percent of households in developing countries should have Internet access, and that user penetration should reach 60 percent globally by then. The penetration target for developing countries is set at 50 percent, and in Least Developed Countries, at 15 percent.

“These targets are ambitious but achievable, given the political will and commitment on the part of governments, working in partnership with the private sector,” said Dr Hamadoun Touré, ITU secretary-general, who serves as co-vice chair of the commission alongside UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. The commission is co-chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim Helú, chairman and CEO of Telmex and América Movíl.

The ITU will undertake responsibility for measuring each country’s progress towards the targets, producing an annual broadband report with rankings of nations worldwide in terms of broadband policy, affordability and uptake.

The Broadband Challenge endorsed by the commission recognizes 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. It urges governments to avoid limiting market entry and taxing ICT services unnecessarily to enable broadband markets to realize their full growth potential, and encourages 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 reads. “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 stresses the need to stimulate content production in local languages and enhance local capacity to benefit from, and contribute to, the digital revolution.
The fourth meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development was held just prior to the Broadband Leadership Summit, which welcomed over 250 government and industry leaders from around the world to exchange views on the challenges and opportunities of “a future built on broadband.”