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Monday, 20 September 2010 09:44

ITU demands broadband for all

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The International Telecommunication Union has called for access to broadband networks to be a basic civil right and has challenged the world's leaders to ensure that more than half of all the world's people have access to broadband networks by 2015.

The challenge was presented to UN agency chiefs and industry heavyweights at the second meeting of the ITU's Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which has just delivered its final outcome report to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in New York.

"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, said ITU secretary General, Dr Hamadoun Touré. "It is also the most powerful tool we have at our disposal in our race to meet the Millennium Development Goals, which are now just five years away."

The Commission was set up in May 2010 by the ITU to "define strategies for accelerating broadband rollout worldwide and examine applications that could see broadband networks improve the delivery of a huge range of social services, from healthcare to education, environmental management, safety and much more."

Its board of commissioners includes Australia's communications minister, Stephen Conroy. iTWire observed at its launch that only vendor representative was Ericsson CEO, Dr Hans Erik Vestberg. However he has since been joined by the CEO's of Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Intel, Qualcomm and by the chair of Huawei and VP emerging markets of Microsoft. Google VP and chief evangelist, Vint Cert is also a member as is Richard Branson of Virgin fame.

The Commission's outcome report includes a high-level declaration calling for 'Broadband Inclusion for All'. It comprises a detailed framework for broadband deployment and ten action points "aimed at mobilising all stakeholders and convincing government leaders to prioritise the rollout of broadband networks to their citizens."

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However it comes with the caveat: "This report does not necessarily represent the opinions of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) or their respective member states, sector members, associates and secretariat."

It represents the views of the commissioners with the further caveat that these views are "personal and do not entail any responsibility for their respective administrations or the organisations to which they are elected or associated with or of which they are staff members."

According to the ITU "Recent research suggests a strong link between broadband penetration and economic growth. In the 21st century, affordable, ubiquitous broadband networks will be as critical to social and economic prosperity as networks like transport, water and power. Broadband will serve as tomorrow's fountain of innovation. It represents the ripening of the digital revolution, the fruits of which have yet to be invented or even imagined."

The report was presented to the UN Secretary-general during a side-event held in conjunction with the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit, which was set to begin Monday 20 September at UN headquarters. It was accompanied by the executive summary of a second report - Broadband: A Platform for Progress, billed as "a comprehensive analytical report that looks at financing models, return on investment, technology choices, and strategies for deployment across a range of different types of economies." The lead author of this was Australia's Paul Budde.


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