Many countries have sought to increase investment in broadband connectivity in order to harness the many benefits that connectivity promises. Apart from America which is seen to have given birth to the internet, many other countries have introduced national broadband infrastructure initiatives to guide them towards realizing increased connectivity.
Below are some countries that have implemented national broadband infrastructure initiatives:
Argentina- the initiative dubbed "Argentina Conectada" is a national initiative launched by a Presidential Decree in 201 that sought brought together different IT initiatives in the country with the focus of building a national fiber backbone. The plan was to create a 58,000 kilometers national fiber backbone that would also combine over 22,000km of fiber already laid by the provincial governments. The government invested approximately $1.8 billion in the project .
Brazil- the national program dubbed "Plano Nacional de Banda Larga," was established in 2010 by President Rousseff's presidential decree. From the inception, the focus was to link all the 27 state capitals in the country, help offer connectivity in public facilities and institutions such as hospitals, government offices and schools; and also selling some capacity to local service providers. The program sought to serve at least 89% of the population, and the government initially invested $3.25 billion for the project .
Chile- the national initiative dubbed "Todo Chile Conectado" was implemented through the national Telecommunications Development Fund. This is a public-private partnership that entailed the government subsidizing operators to manage the process. Launched in 2010, it cost an estimated $110 million .
Status of the Australian National Broadband Network
The Australian National Broadband Network is an ambitious AUD 43 billion project that sought to connect up to 93% of Australian homes, businesses, public institutions and workplaces with broadband speeds of up to 100 Mbps in towns and specific urban centers. The plan also entailed connecting all the other regions and premises in Australia with wireless and satellite internet connectivity with speeds of up to 12 Mbps. Eight years since its rollout, Australia is still grappling with average internet speeds, and the initiative has struggled to fulfill its mandate fully . The delivery of the project experienced significant delays which attracted a lot of negative media coverage and dissatisfied public opinion. Internet connectivity in the country remains sparing, with internet speeds ranked lower among some of its competitors in Europe.
There has been a lot of development of legislation and policy actions aimed at bringing broadband access to more Australian citizens. Some of them include:
National Broadband Network Companies Act 2011-the Act stipulated the manner in which NBN Company was to carry out the project. This legislation defined the NBN's mandate as being a wholesale-only broadband company that would sell its services to other retail internet service providers. The legislation also spells out the procedure for its eventual privatization and other obligations .
The Telecommunication Legislation Amendment Act of 2011- this act served to provide the necessary regulatory and control framework for NBN and contained all the amendments to the previously enacted Consumer Act of 2010. The Act provided that all the services offered by the company were subject to the oversight of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and that NBN was expected to provide its services in a non-discriminatory manner .
Australia Digital Divide
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than 2.6 million Australians are not connected to the internet. More than 1.3 million households are also not connected . The Australian Digital Inclusion index, however, points out that digital inclusion has been on an upward trend in the recent years, with the country index growing from 52.7 to 56.5 points. Over 90% of those aged between 15 and 54% are connected to the internet . The figures drop to 80% aged between 55 and 64 years, and under 60% among those aged over 60%. Some of the key determinants are level of income- with connection being highest among the high-income earners, location- with connectivity being most upper in cities and urban centers among other factors. A lot of aspirations are placed on the National Broadband Network to help lower the digital divide by introducing universal broadband access in the country .
Countries with Low Internet Access Rates
Majority of the countries with low internet access rates are characterized by high poverty levels, political instability and dictatorial regimes, and lack of general social and economic stability. Eight out of ten of the countries with the lowest rates of internet access are in Africa. Eritrea, which scores lowly regarding human rights records, has the world's lowest rates at 0.91%. Myanmar has a penetration rate of1.16%, Burundi 1.39%, Sierra Leone 1.49%, Somalia 1.51%, and Congo 1.92% . As mentioned, these countries also rank as some of the poorest in the world which implies that there is a greater correlation between economic capability and the ability to have broadband access. Political censorship and control is also an overwhelming factor in these countries.
Benefits of High Broadband Access
In developing economies, an investment in broadband has the potential to spur economic growth. For every 10% in the increase of broadband penetration, there is a resultant accelerated economic improvement of up to 1.38%. In addition to that, high penetration of broadband can help in job creation. From a social perspective, high broadband access helps people access services and be informed of the happenings in their immediate environment and beyond. It may help people to be more active in their communities . It increases access to education, and learning opportunities hence can be a useful medium for increasing the number of educated people. In America, by 2009, broadband internet accounted for over $32 billion per annum in net consumer benefits . The advantages of broadband connections are many and diverse, spanning different industries, and they cannot be adequately summarized.
High-speed internet connection is highly favored because it allows for faster load times and multiple usages by many users and devices which can increase workplace efficiency and productivity among other things .
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