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Broadband a human right – 'if you can afford it'

Tuesday, October 14th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

Access to broadband is now a human right, according to a group of senior figures in the telecoms industry.

In a poll of leaders from global telecoms, media and technology, nearly three quarters said that access to broadband is now a human right.

But 20% instead agreed with the answer "yes, if you can afford it".

The results were taken from a survey of members of Broadband 100 – a group of senior figures from areas of the industry including providers, regulators and analysts.

The group will meet at the Broadband World Forum, an annual telecoms, media and technology event in Amsterdam next week, to debate major issues for the industry, and continue to discuss them virtually over the next year.

In a survey ahead of the conference, 55 members of the group were polled on some of the issues facing the industry.

Asked whether access to broadband is now a human right, 49 answered the question, with six choosing not to.

Of those who answered, 73.5% said “absolutely”, 22.4% said “yes, if you can afford it”, and 4.1% answered “no”.

On the issue of who should pay for universal broadband access, 40% agreed on a combination of operators, governments, users and “over-the-top” providers (OTTs). OTTs are third-party content providers which stream video, audio and other media, such as Netflix or NowTV.

Nearly a quarter (24.5%) of those polled said users should foot the bill for universal broadband access; 16.3% said governments should; and 18.4% said OTTs should pay for it.

None said it should be operators who pay for universal broadband access.

The group backed more collaboration across the industry to further innovation and best practice, citing a lack of innovation and openness as one of the threats to their business.

The group – which includes representatives from organisations such as Telstra, Deutsche Telekom, and Orange – was asked to choose up to three options from a possible list of biggest threats to their business.

Topping the list was cost of infrastructure investment, with regulatory pressure close behind.

James McGough, Broadband World Forum director and a founding member of the Broadband 100, said, “There are some fairly consistent views being voiced by our members: the group generally agrees that access to broadband is now a human right, but that the cost of delivering this poses problems.

“The majority of group members believe that the required investment must come from all stakeholders – operators, governments, users and manufacturers.

“The responsibility is too great to fall on a single entity, so we need to work together and collaborate better.”

He added, “The group has started to consider some high profile and contentious topics.

“Our members are senior industry and regulatory decision makers and their opinions on what the next steps in organisational and political strategies should be will ultimately shape the online experience of businesses and consumers across the world.”

Image courtesy of the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, Erasmus University, Rotterdam.

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