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United Nations Report Delivers Key Infrastructure Recommendations

Encourages Nations to Develop National Broadband Strategies

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Over the past 2 years, the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development has released a number of reports regarding global broadband access, including broadband targets for the global community to achieve by 2015.

The UN Broadband Commission also developed a "Call to Action" for world leaders to take in preparation for the Rio+20 sustainable development summit, scheduled to take place in Brazil in June, 2012. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the summit, "One of the most important conferences in the history of the United Nations."

The UN's Universal Broadband Targets to Achieve by 2015

One important section of the report titled Broadband: A Platform for Progress seeks to "identify key factors in a nation’s physical communications infrastructure, and to identify the path for expanding and improving that infrastructure so that broadband connectivity can be delivered to all.

According to the conclusions and recommendations emerging from the review of various government measures to deploy a national broadband infrastructure include:

  • Infrastructure policy should take account of rapid technical advances and be focused on larger goals, not directed towards a specific technology mix. Legacy infrastructure (or lack thereof) constitutes both a constraint and an opportunity.
  • Infrastructure goals are separate from questions of public ownership of facilities and the role of competition in spurring private investment.
  • Pricing or other barriers that restrict access to networks or infrastructure must be removed as far as possible.
  • The National Broadband Plan in America

  • Preserving flexibility and innovation at the network’s edges is essential. It must be possible to attach new applications and access devices, such as smartphones — which is much easier than replacing core infrastructure.
  • The physical network is distinct from the services and functions that travel across it, and, in the interest of competition and technical progress, too close an association between infrastructure and a particular service should be avoided.
  • Fibre-optic networks are likely to be preferred as backbone wired infrastructure for highvolume users, but these must be complemented by rapidly evolving wireless (terrestrial and satellite) infrastructure that will provide more bandwidth more economically as technology develops. Countries all differ in terms of geography, topology and existing infrastructure, and satellite services will continue to be very important in serving the lowest-density areas, due to the high costs of deploying terrestrial technologies.
  • The sharing of infrastructure should be facilitated and encouraged, and policy-makers should consider how best to ensure synergies among applications and services. This means adopting an integrated, trans-sectoral approach.

The United Nations Call to Action For Broadband

This report also examines policy issues affecting the deployment of universal broadband. Although the UN report is written for the global community, many issues are being addressed right here in the United States. One of these issues is the limited availability of wireless spectrum

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According to the UN Broadband Report: "Another important policy concern is the allocation of radio frequency spectrum — a limited natural resource that is in growing demand. Since the launch of the first mobile broadband network in 2001, no less than 130 countries had launched commercial IMT-2000 (3G) services by the end of 2009. Mobile WiMAX services were gaining ground and services were available to customers in 76 countries. Technological progress and the transformation of telecommunication markets mean that traditional approaches to allocation are set to change, and the chapter considers how the use of spectrum can best be optimized."

Another issue the United States is grappling with at both a national and state level is establishing goals related to universal access to broadband. The UN report analyzes policies regarding access from a variety of countries. According to the report:

"Out of 132 countries worldwide having established a definition of universal access and/or universal service by 2009, more than two-thirds had included Internet access in that definition. And at least 30 countries had explicitly mandated access to broadband, including Brazil, China, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland and Uganda. Their number is constantly growing, while some countries have gone even further. For example, Finland was the first nation to declare broadband a legal right in 2009, entitling every person to have access to a 1 Mbit/s Internet connection by mid-2010.

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