UN broadband report predicts future “roaming seamlessly between networks”

The first ever report from the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development, released last week, has found that Internet access has increased over the past year within households, but individual use is lagging in many countries.

Jamie Beach at Telecoms.com notes that the Commission “predicts that mobile broadband could prove the platform for achieving the boost needed to get progress back on track”. But this is only going to work if Big Telecom’s price-gouging tactics are limited.

The report highlights the many ways in which broadband access has allowed for improvements in a range of areas around the world—from distance education, to health, and the promotion of gender equality—and it emphasizes the importance of national broadband plans to facilitate its deployment.

With the rapid growth in networked mobile devices over the last few years, mobile phones may become key means of expanding individual Internet access, especially in the developing world. The report notes that “[w]orldwide, mobile phone subscriptions exceeded 6 billion in early 2012, with three-quarters of those subscriptions in the developing world” and predicts that “soon the vast majority of people on the planet will hold in their hand a device with higher processing power than the most powerful computers from the 1980s”.

The Commission sees networked mobile devices as the future, predicting that someday “we shall enjoy high-speed connectivity on the move, roaming seamlessly between networks, wherever we go – anywhere, anytime, via any device”. If this is going to be the case, a competitive telecommunications market is essential, but Big Telecom has been working hard to ensure it has the market locked down by shutting out independent, affordable options here in Canada and around the world.

This week we posted over at OpenMedia International about the latest developments in the International Telecommunications Union proposals, some of which could challenge the spread of Internet access in the developing world due to unsustainable price-gouging tactics.

We’ve seen the same issues at home; in January we launched our Stop The Squeeze campaign to push back against Big Telecom’s plan to destroy independent cell phone options, raise prices, and worsen already disrespectful customer service. Because of your support, Big Telecom has so far been somewhat unsuccessful in these efforts.

The public outcry has also encouraged the creation of new service providers like Roam Mobility, which provides a new option to undercut Big Telecom when you travel in the U.S. Independent providers are essential if we want a diverse and competitive telecommunications market that will support the rapid growth of Internet access. The practical implementation of a future in which we “roam seamlessly between networks” will not be possible without independent, affordable options for access, like Roam.

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Originally posted at http://openmedia.ca/blog/un-broadband-report-predicts-roaming-seamlessly-between-networks

Government takes small step in support of rural broadband access

The StarPhoenix yesterday called out phone company SaskTel for its sudden announcement of a cancellation of Internet services to rural areas in Saskatchewan. This will leave 8,000 customers without Internet access, at a time when “farmers are relying on the Internet more than ever before for such things as timely marketing”, not to mention the effect on businesses relying on Skype, distance education, and family entertainment.

The StarPhoenix points out that the provincial government justifies its principle of public ownership of utilities because “the private sector cannot be counted upon to deliver reliable services at a reasonable cost to a widely scattered population”. However this development shows that neither the government nor SaskTel were apparently able to plan ahead to ensure uninterrupted Internet service.

SaskTel blames Industry Canada, saying that “the federal agency is “taking back” the broadband spectrum allocation SaskTel was using for its rural fixed wireless network”.

Today, however the Harper government responded that “access to the Internet is not a luxury; it’s a necessity”, and that “[l]eaving 8,000 rural Canadians without reliable access to the Internet is unacceptable”. SaskTel will be given additional time upgrade their systems so as to ensure uninterrupted access for users.

While it’s great to see that the government is responding to connectivity issues and places a high value on Internet access, these ad hoc solutions don’t make up for Canada’s lack of a broadband plan. We’ve posted before about the need for a Digital Economy Strategy for Canada, and we’ve brought citizens together to craft and distribute an action plan for a connected Canada. The government has no excuse to allow our digital deficit to continue.

Meanwhile the government response also highlights its plan to auction off new wireless spectrum as part of a plan to expand and upgrade cell phone access, but as we’ve noted, these plans are likely to reinforce Big Telecom’s stranglehold, and our proposals for improvements have so far not been incorporated. OpenMedia executive director Steve Anderson summarized our take on the spectrum auction framework: “This decision could have been worse, but if prices do not begin to come down Canadians will know who to blame.”

We’re falling behind other industrialized nations on all things digital: our Internet is slower and more restricted, and both mobile and wired access to the web are more expensive.

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Originally posted at http://openmedia.ca/blog/government-takes-small-step-support-rural-broadband-access