Report highlights role of regulation in driving broadband roll-out

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Over the past five years, fixed broadband subscriptions have more than doubled to reach an estimated 591 million in early 2012 ? yet a huge divide remains between the developed and developing worlds. Fixed broadband penetration of 26 percent in industrialized countries contrasts dramatically with penetration of just 4.8 percent in developing nations. Affordability remains a major obstacle, particularly in Africa, where fixed broadband access costs on average three times monthly per capita income. ITU figures indicate that the number of active social media users has now surpassed one billion, many of whom connect using their mobile devices. But statistics on mobile broadband penetration reveal that only an estimated 8.5 percent of the population in developing countries had access to mobile broadband services in 2011, with nearly half of all broadband-enabled phones used in a handful of high-income countries, and low-income countries accounting for just 5 percent of global use. As the broadband revolution unfolds, the report showed that large segments of the world?s population are steadily being left behind. Over five billion people have still never experienced even low-speed Internet, or have only experienced it through public or shared access. At the same time, the advent of apps and new devices like tablet computers is generating a tidal wave of data traffic, pushing the capacity of existing networks to the limit at a time when so-called Over-the-Top (OTT) services like cloud computing and online shopping are compromising telcos? incentive to fund costly additional network roll-out. And finally, a host of emerging issues such as how to protect intellectual property rights (IPRs), how to deal ecologically with the growing mountain of e-waste, and how preserve the right to privacy over social networks are further stretching the current remit and resources of ICT regulators. Snapshot of ICT regulatory trends worldwide When it comes to provision of traditional telecommunication services, high-speed networks are already challenging old paradigms like open access and ways of financing universal access and universal service. Over the past two decades, the scope of universal service and universal access (UAS) has broadened, with UAS increasingly being re-conceptualized to include Internet ? and even broadband. Funding that previously focused on supply-side interventions ? networks and facilities ? is now increasingly being channelled to interventions that will stimulate demand. But broadband is also profoundly altering models in other economic sectors, such as the provision of financial services like m-banking and the protection of original content. As markets evolve, that could mean important new roles for ICT regulators. In recent years, a growing number of traditional telecoms regulators have seen their mandate expand to include information technology and broadcasting. More recently, complex cybersecurity, privacy and environmental concerns have all come to the fore, and these are now being joined by issues related to the surge in use of evolving online applications and services. The huge volume of data generated by fixed and mobile broadband applications means that most countries are now facing a critical ICT infrastructure deficit. Given the importance of broadband to each country?s ongoing development, the deficit is fast becoming a major public policy issue requiring the formulation of new cross-sectoral broadband policy frameworks. Encouragingly, over 130 governments have today adopted or are planning to adopt a national policy, strategy or plan to promote broadband. ?Ensuring investment and innovation without stifling competition is the key challenge today?s ICT regulators face,? said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Tour?. ?In order for all citizens to benefit from the economic growth driven by broadband, huge and sustained investments in networks are needed. This report looks at how regulators could help, and what innovative regulatory measures might be able to achieve.? ]]>

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