ITU Calls For Broadband for Half the World

Calling for a more concerted effort by governments to bring broadband Internet access to remote and disadvantaged populations, the International Telecommunications Union issued a goal of giving one-half the worlds population access to broadband service by 2015. That ambitious goal would require a huge buildout of high-speed connections not only in poor and developing nations, but in the rural parts of the United States and other affluent countries.

While today three out of four households in the world have a TV and the rest have access to broadcast television signals — only 25 percent have Internet access of any kind, pointed out Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, director of ITUs Telecommunication Development Bureau, at the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-10), in Hyderabad, India. In the developing countries, home Internet penetration is as low as 12 percent, Al Morshid added.

On the bright side, the extraordinary spread of mobile cellular technology has brought billions of people into the global communications grid in the last few years. Nearly 90 percent of the world’s population is covered by a mobile cellular network, said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré, in a statement. In India and China, the world’s two most populous countries, basic telephone service has spread to more than 90 percent of villages.

The ITU report, World Telecommunication/ICT Development Report 2010, comes as the U.S. is attempting to meet the goals set out by the FCC in the National Broadband Plan, released in March. Among the FCCs proposals to achieve ubiquitous nationwide broadband access: free up 500MHz of new wireless spectrum within 10 years, stop subsidizing high-cost landline buildouts and redirect $4.6 billion toward broadband deployments, and create a Connect America Fund that would shift up to $15.5 billion to broadband access over the next decade.

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