At the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 's Telecom World 2011 event, the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development announced "ambitious but achievable" targets for countries to make broadband available and affordable for just about everyone.
The four targets are as follows:
- Making broadband policy universal. By 2015, all countries should have a national broadband plan or strategy, or include broadband in their Universal Access/Service Definitions.
- Making broadband affordable. By 2015, entry-level broadband services should be made affordable in developing countries through adequate regulation and market forces (for example, amount to less than 5 percent of average monthly income).
- Connecting homes to broadband. By 2015, 40 percent of households in developing countries should have Internet access.
- Getting people online. By 2015, Internet user penetration should reach 60 percent worldwide, 50 percent in developing countries and 15 percent in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
The UN Commission, which recognizes communications as a "human need and a right," has issued a Broadband Challenge to government leaders, policymakers, industry leaders and consumers to develop innovative business models, to make broadband policy universal, to stimulate online health and education initiatives, as well as to encourage local content production and local language apps and services to ensure an inclusive digital world.
Those are lofty goals indeed. But what happens if they are not achieved?
The ITU is going to oversee and measure how each country is doing to meet the targets. The organization will report back annually and rank countries worldwide in terms of their broadband policy, affordability and take-up of services.
According to the ITU's latest figures, global Internet penetration in 2011 is at 20 percent, which is up from 13 percent three years ago in 2008. And the top broadband economies are all in Europe, Asia and the Pacific. The Republic of Korea, for example, has more than 90 percent penetration of mobile broadband and almost all fixed broadband connections deliver speeds of 10 Mbit/s or higher. But the situation is quite different in countries like Ghana, Oman or Venezuela, where broadband speeds are lower than 2 Mbit/s.
It's the ITU's mission, naturally, to close that broadband gap. And it's a good ambition. But getting government and industry to work together to accomplish the goals of the Broadband Challenge will be quite another matter -- a challenge, indeed.
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile