The A4AI report is out with the significant milestone of 50% global internet penetration rate globally. The report examines the progress that enables affordable internet access for all in developing and emerging countries. it also examines the successful implementation of policies to drive broadband prices down and connect the billions still offline — as well as the stumbling blocks on the road to affordable access for all. The report also take an in-depth look at the importance of different public access solutions — from public WiFi to community networks — for achieving universal access targets.
Though broadband prices are coming down, they simply aren’t falling fast enough, leaving low income earners and other marginalised populations unable to afford even a basic connection. Furthermore, our research shows that the pace of policy change has been far too slow:
Just half of the countries studied have public access policies in place that are also backed by financial support for implementation. 45% of countries have plans to facilitate resource sharing among telecommunications companies (e.g., sharing of infrastructure, including towers and fibre networks); even where countries have plans, implementation is rare. Only one in three countries have detailed, time-bound plans for making more spectrum available to meet increasing demands. Universal Service and Access Funds, an important tool to finance strategic investments in the sector, either don’t exist or are dormant in over a third of countries. National broadband plans to guide the policy reforms needed to achieve universal access have never been developed or are badly outdated in 41% of countries. The good news is that we know what we need to do to turn things around and make the internet affordable for all. Smart policies that encourage more competition and innovation in key areas, such as spectrum, infrastructure, and last-mile connectivity, can help to pave the way toward affordability. These policies should be grounded in a new, more ambitious affordability target of “1 for 2”— 1GB of data for no more than 2% of income — that enables more income groups to afford to connect. Just 19 of the 58 countries assessed for this year’s report have met this “1 for 2” target. For this reason, it is critical that countries also implement public access solutions to ensure that those at the base of the pyramid don’t also remain relegated to the back of the connectivity queue.