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United Nations Establishes Global Broadband Targets to be Achieved by 2015

Follows Declaration that Access to the Internet is a Basic Human Right

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The United Nation's Broadband Commission for Digital Development stated four global broadband policy targets for ensuring universal and affordable broadband access. The four goals are as follows:

  • Target 1: 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.
  • Target 2: Making broadband affordable. By 2015, entry-level broadband services should be made affordable in developing countries through adequate regulation and market forces (amounting to less than 5% of average monthly income).
  • Target 3: Connecting homes to broadband. By 2015, 40% of households in developing countries should have Internet access.
  • Target 4: Getting people online. By 2015, Internet user penetration should reach 60% worldwide, 50% in developing countries and 15% in LDCs.
United Nations Assumes Major Role in Broadband Deployment; Broadband Enables Sustainable Development and Economic Prosperity

The membership of the UN's Broadband Commission includes top CEO and industry leaders, senior policy-makers and government representatives, international agencies, academia and organizations concerned with development. The Commission embraces a range of different perspectives in a multi-stakeholder approach to promoting the roll-out of broadband, as well as providing a fresh approach to UN and business engagement.

The Broadband Commission was established as a special United Nations body to engage in advocacy and to demonstrate that broadband networks:

  • are basic infrastructure in a modern society - just like roads, electricity or water;
  • are uniquely powerful tools for accelerating progress towards the MDGs;
  • are remarkably cost-effective and offer impressive returns-on-investment (ROI) in both developed and developing economies alike;
  • underpin all industrial sectors and are increasingly the foundation of public services and social progress;
  • need to be promoted by governments in joint partnership with industry, in order to reap the full benefits of broadband networks and services.

According to the Commission's charter contained on their website, "the Broadband Commission believes that high-speed, high-capacity broadband connections to the Internet are an essential element in modern society, conferring broad social and economic benefits. Without broadband infrastructure and services, developing countries risk exclusion from participation in the burgeoning global digital economy. The Commission aims to promote the adoption of broadband-friendly practices and policies, so all the world’s people can take advantage of the benefits of broadband.

Another UN body, (Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly) declared access to the Internet a basic human right which enables individuals to "exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression."

The broadband report from the UN Human Rights Council was released after the seventeenth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and is titled "Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue." In addition to the basic right to Internet access, the report also cites the global community's responsibility to spur global efforts to increase broadband availability in nations.

The United Nations human rights report continues to emphasize the importance of broadband and Internet access throughout the report:

"The Special Rapporteur believes that the Internet is one of the most powerful instruments of the 21st century for increasing transparency in the conduct of the powerful, access to information, and for facilitating active citizen participation in building democratic societies."

"As such, facilitating access to the Internet for all individuals, with as little restriction to online content as possible, should be a priority for all States."

The report was seen as a message to countries restricting access to citizens as an attempt to control opposition, as well as emphasizing to both developing - and developed countries, that ensuring universal access to broadband should be a global priority. The report was published at a time when the FCC is reporting 26 million Americans do not have access to broadband.

The UN Broadband Commission Digital Development also published a report titled "Broadband: A Platform for Progress in June 2011. The purpose of this report was described as follows:

“To optimize the benefits to society, broadband should be coordinated on a countrywide basis, promoting facilities-based competition and with policies encouraging service providers to offer access on fair market terms… efforts should be coordinated across all sectors of industry, administration and the economy.”

The National Broadband Plan in the United States

This report emphasizes the prominent role broadband plays in both economic development and preserving the environment. By emphasizing the unique role broadband can play in addressing sustainability challenges, as well as spurring economic development and improving quality of life, the UN makes a strong case to support broadband development efforts on a global scale.

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