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Global Broadband Group Calls for Making Access to High-Speed Networks a Basic Civil Right

in Broadband's Impact/International by

WASHINGTON, September 20, 2010 - Broadband is tomorrow’s fountain of innovation that can underpin long-term economic competitiveness, said International Telecommunications Union Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure on Sunday in New York.

At the second meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development over the weekend, Toure also challenged global leaders to ensure that more than half of the world's people have access to broadband networks by 2015, and make access to high-speed networks a basic civil right.

Delivering a report to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Toure said: “Broadband is the next tipping point, the next truly transformational technology. It can generate jobs, drive growth and productivity, and underpin long-term economic competitiveness.”

The commission’s report, which includes a high-level declaration calling for ‘Broadband Inclusion for All,’ includes a detailed framework for broadband deployment and 10 action points aimed at mobilizing all stakeholders and convincing government leaders to prioritize the roll-out of broadband networks to their citizens.

The report was presented to the U.N. secretary-general during a side event held in conjunction with the U.N. Millennium Development Goals Summit, which is set to begin Monday at U.N. headquarters.

Receiving the report, Ban said: “Information and communication technologies are playing an increasingly important role as drivers of social and economic development, but it will take partnerships such as the Broadband Commission to ensure that those technologies live up to their extraordinary potential."

The report stresses the need for leaders to focus on building a ‘virtuous broadband development dynamic,’’ noting that broadband has the power to “cut a swathe through the silos associated with health, education, energy, transport, the environment and other key sectors.”

It also addresses the global affordability of broadband. While subscribers in the developed world such as the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom, pay less than 1 percent of average national monthly income for a fast broadband connection, many of the world’s U.N.-designated least developed countries, such as Ethiopia, Malawi or Niger, must pay many times an average monthly salary for even a relatively slow broadband connection.

The commission report stresses the importance of promoting cultural diversity and multilingualism online. It urges governments not to limit market entry nor tax broadband and related services too heavily, and to ensure ample availability of spectrum to support mobile broadband growth

The ITU forecasts a total of 900 million broadband subscribers by 2010 and predicts that mobile broadband will be the access technology of choice for millions in the developing world, where fixed link infrastructure is sparse and expensive.

“The new realities and opportunities for digital development must be firmly fixed in the minds of world leaders as a leadership imperative,” says the report, urging leaders to replicate the “mobile miracle” of the first decade of the 21st century in a broadband boom that will create shared, accessible and beneficial high-speed resources.

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