Obama administration declares broadband ‘core utility’ in report

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

4bn people lack internet access as global broadband grows slowly.

Geneva: Growth in the number of people with access to the Internet is slowing, and more than half the world’s population is still offline, the United Nations Broadband Commission said on Monday.

The United Nation Broadband Commission, Monday disclosed that four billion people globally, especially people living in the developing world lack internet access, just as broadband grows slowly. The changes range from allowing community recreation centers to tap into a $2.3 billion program to pay for high-speed internet, to collecting more data on who is and who isn’t able to access broadband, to making it easier for service providers to lay cables beneath federal lands.

The UN, in its 2015 report stated that the new country by country data on state of broadband access worldwide is published by the UN Broadband Commission. Internet access in developed countries is “close to saturation,” but only 6.7 per cent of households have access in the least-developed nations. “One factor contributing to the slowing of Internet growth is that the business case is less compelling for the areas in which the remaining 57 per cent of unconnected people live,” the report said.

It blamed the cost of extending last-mile infrastructure to rural and remote customers, and a sharp slowdown in the growth of mobile cellular subscriptions globally. The actions come as a result of the Broadband Opportunity Council’s first report on expanding access to high-speed internet, which is being released today. Facebook is trying to change this with the initiative internet.org, which aims to “bring together technology leaders, non-profits and local communities to connect the two thirds of the world that doesn’t have Internet access.” “Networks can’t support large amounts of data. The council was formed by President Obama earlier this year, with the goal of ensuring that the federal government is doing everything within its current powers to encourage the deployment of broadband.

The lowest levels of Internet access, according to the report are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, with internet available to less than 2% of the population in Guinea (1.7%), Somalia (1.6%), Burundi (1.4%), Timor Leste (1.1%) and Eritrea (1.0). That means there are no new funding programs here, but existing sources of funding are being opened up and barriers to deployment are being brought down. New figures in the report confirmed that 3.2 billion people are now connected, up from 2.9 billion last year and equating to 43% of the global population. In the stratosphere, there are many layers of wind, and each layer of wind varies in direction and speed. “By partnering with Telecommunications companies to share cellular spectrum we’ve enabled people to connect to the balloon network directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices. It’s instructing all government agencies to amend relevant programs so that their resources can be used to make investments in the rollout of high-speed internet.

While the Republic of Korea continues to have the world’s highest household broadband penetration, with 98.5% of homes connected; Qatar (98%) and Saudi Arabia (94%) are ranked second and third respectively. The council estimates that up to $10 billion worth of federal programs will be opened up through these actions, though of course only a portion of that will end up being used for broadband. The Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to begin requiring that most new residential projects it funds include plans for broadband support; units undergoing major renovation will be required to include broadband plans, too.

The Asia-Pacific region, the report indicated now accounts for half of all active mobile broadband subscriptions, with Macao, China easily taking top place with 322 active mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 people or just over 3 subscriptions per inhabitant followed by second-ranked Singapore (156 subscriptions per 100 people) and Kuwait (140 subscriptions per 100 people). To make sure that towns and cities are aware of these programs, the Commerce Department has committed to creating a “portal” that’ll round up the grants and programs available to assist with broadband deployment. Basically, a local organization should be able to visit its portal and find information on all federal funding as well as best practices for actually getting cables in the ground and usable.

That includes encouraging communities to adopt “dig once” policies, which allow fiber or other cables to be laid when digging is done for unrelated projects. The intention is to reduce the time and cost on internet providers that want to deploy infrastructure on federal land, which may be a necessity in certain areas — particularly in locations where infrastructure is already lacking. Though the administration has been working to see broadband adoption grow across the country, a quarter of all households remained without high-speed internet — now defined as 25Mbps — as of 2012.

Released annually, it is the only report that features country-by-country rankings based on access and affordability for over 160 economies worldwide. The Broadband Commission comprises more than 50 leaders from across a range of government and industry sectors who are committed to actively assisting countries, UN experts and NGO teams to fully leverage the huge potential of ICTs to drive new national SDG strategies in key areas like education, healthcare and environmental management. In total, the council’s report highlights 36 actions that federal agencies are committing to taking, with timelines set out for each of them that stretch across the next 18 months. The council intends to keep working with agencies to see that these actions are implemented, while continuing to look for ways that the government can increase broadband deployment. Notably, some major actions can only be taken by the FCC — an independent agency — and therefore aren’t covered in this report; but the FCC has been taking its own actions too, including modernizing its Lifeline program to subsidize high-speed internet for low-income households.

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