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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

UN insists on affordable broadband access by 2015


The United Nations (UN) may have insisted on affordability of broadband access to the citizens of the world before the end of the next four years, that is, 2015, not exceeding 5 per cent of average monthly income.

This thought formed part of the outcome of the just concluded fourth meeting of the Broadband Commission which endorsed new broadband targets accompanied with global ‘Broadband Challenge’.

Although tagged ‘four ambitious but achievable’ new targets, the Broadband Commission for Digital Development (BCDD) ended its meeting in the city of Geneva, Switzerland, tasking countries globally to make every effort to meet up with target of ensuring their populations fully participate in tomorrow’s emerging knowledge societies anchored on broadband.

The new targets, BCDD noted would focus on broadband policy, affordability and uptake while cutting across the processes of making broadband policy universal.

“By 2015, all countries should have a national broadband plan or strategy or include broadband in their universal access cum service definitions,” part of the recommendation read. The head, Communications and Partnership Promotion, Mr. Paul Conneally and Chief, Media Relations and Public Information, Ms. Sarah Parkes both of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), informed that BCDD urged countries to make broadband affordable by 2015.

The Commission maintained that entry-level broadband services should be made affordable in developing countries through adequate regulation and market forces, which must be less than 5 per cent of average monthly income.

Also, Broadband Commission listed connecting homes to broadband by 2015, which entails that 40 per cent of households in developing countries should have Internet access. Equally, the Commission predicted that by getting people online before December 31, 2015, Internet user penetration should reach 60 per cent worldwide, and 50 per cent in developing countries and 15 per cent in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun Touré, who serves as co-Vice Chair of the Commission alongside UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, was quoted as saying that these targets are ambitious but achievable, given the political will and commitment on the part of governments, working in partnership with the private sector.

ITRealms Online recalls that the Commission is co-chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim Helú, Chairman and CEO of Telmex and América Movíl. Further, Toure assured that 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.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it’s preparing grounds for a solid broadband plans for the country, insisting that Africa needs a unified broadband strategy.

The Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Eugene Juwah made this revelation at the recently ended West African ICT Congress in Lagos, where he was represented by the Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo.

The Commission, he said, has commenced preliminary studies and appraisals that would usher NCC on solid ground for full implementation of a broadband marshal plan for Nigeria.

“What we would stress today is the desire for the industry, especially the policy makers, investors, service providers, vendors and policy makers to begin to examine how these would affect the future of our telecommunications environment, and prepare themselves for the roles they will need to play for us to realize a collective success,” he said.

The success being envisaged by NCC in the sector, he said, is not such that only one institution would be expected to deliver.

“When we put broadband in the perspective of cross border implementation, it calls for harmonization of policies across the states or nations involved at regional or continental levels,” he said.

Therefore, he said, Africa and Nigeria need to evolve a uniform inter-regional policy framework such that when broadband is fully implemented in any of the nations, the benefits could easily spread to sister nations in the continent.

“A careful appraisal of the growth of broadband in developed countries can be traced to a semblance of policies accentuated by uniform level of development in terms of telecommunications and ICT infrastructures,” he noted.

Lamenting that the same could not be said of Africa where huge telephone traffic are not exchanged between neighbouring countries on the continent, when compared with the traffic that such countries exchange with countries in Europe, America, Asia and the Middle east countries.

“Most African countries are yet to be directly interconnected, which is the reason why it costs higher to make calls across the continent than it is to make calls to and from outside the continent,” he said, stressing that as Africans must collectively pursue a deliberate policy of liberalization that will attract service providers to go beyond their immediate environments and also allow interconnection within and among African countries.

Nigeria, he cited as an instance, has witnessed impressive investments in the area of submarine optics fibre cable along the coastlines, yet, there are about four major cables currently.

Ordinarily, Juwah pointed out that if Nigeria taps into the full potentials of these cables, with its direct connection to the international super-highway, the country would have achieved a lot in broadband penetration.

Decrying the fact that these cables have only reached the coastlines, while majority of the geographical land mass are yet to be connected because they are mostly landlocked, Juwah urged investors to take advantage of this by going extra mile to ensure that the rest of the countries’ are connected.

“It could be that such investors may need to be incentivized, but in what ways? This is where we hope the experts and stakeholders would come up with the appropriate recommendations that will guide regulatory actions and policies,” he said.

Juwah emphasized that service providers in Africa appear to have backed down from an earlier pursuit of deploying to as many African countries as possible.

Remmy Nweke
ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

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