The current Coronavirus pandemic has probably contributed like no other recent event to boost the Internet’s digital infrastructure. However, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
As companies shift their workforce, if possible, to work from their home office, and as schools and universities are locked down, requiring students to study from home, it becomes apparent that despite decades of calls to “bridge the digital divide” and to “close the broadband bottlenecks” there is still a great amount of work to do to bring broadband internet to all.
Despite the fact that the Internet is close to 50 years old and that the web browser has been around for close to 30 years, many rural communities are still struggling to get online at speeds that are sufficient for today’s applications– like video conferencing and multiple streamimg services for parents and their children working and studying from home.
In the U.S., for example, the House of Representatives, led by the Democratic majority, is now proposing legislation to massively expand broadband infrastructure in the USA. Called the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act (H.R. 7302) this act would introduce a fiber infrastructure program run by a new Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth and would be budgeted at a total of between 80 and 100 billion USD. This office would be charged to coordinate all federal infrastructure efforts with state governments.
Whether this act becomes law will of course depend on the willingness of the U.S. Senate to become a positive agent of change.
So, what should be done to accelerate broadband development?
Twenty years after the big crash in Internet and Telecommunication industries, fear and caution should make way for an earnest and combined effort to expand broadband to everyone.
We need a new deal between business, society, and governments. But the stakes are high. Incumbents have invested heavily in networks and want to keep competitors out. Investments are high, making it difficult for incumbents and new market entrants to coexist, especially when it is required to dig up streets to lay fibre-optic cables which will bring gigabit speeds to the users. Even if the last mile may still be bridged by other technologies, be it by squeezing evermore capacity out of old copper telephone lines, or by bridging the last mile with wireless technologies, long-distance connectivity will be brought to the communities via fibre-optic cables. Even the masts bringing wireless technologies to the public will usually require a fixed line back-haul component.
Due to deregulation 30 years ago, today’s infrastructure providers are no longer run as a regulated monopoly with a universal service obligation, but as commercial enterprises where financial markets demand that investments bring in profits. Connecting rural communities, however, can easily become so costly that the expected subscriber revenue may not be sufficient to cover the costs for bringing fibre to the communities. Here, legislators, regulators, and private sector participants need to strike new deals, new balances.
How can Arete Publica Associates help your business?
When it comes to striking deals between various stakeholder groups, our founder, Peter H. Hellmonds, brings in twenty-five years of working in national and international multi-stakeholder initiatives. This experience of striking deals on a national and international level comes to bear in favor of your business interests.
Peter brought multi-stakeholder initiatives to the World Bank in the early 1990s where he pushed for an engagement of the World Bank Group into providing connectivity to developing countries.
On an international level, Peter participated in the multi-stakeholder Digital Opportunities Task Force of the G8, in the UN ICT Task Force of the United Nations.
On the UN Task Force, Peter not only led the Siemens business delegation, but was also a member of the German government delegation, and participated in the negotiations of the two World Summits on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva and Tunis.
Following this, he was appointed a member of the Council of Strategic Advisors of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development of the United Nations, and was appointed twice, by UN Secretaries Kofi Annan and Ban Ki Moon, to be a member of the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group of the Internet Governance Forum. Peter has also been a trusted member of the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris, where he continues to participate in the Digital Economy Commission and where he was a founding member of its initiative BASIS (Business Action to Support the Information Society).
As member of the Communications Expert Group of the German UNESCO Commission, Peter was able to bridge the international and the national levels of the issue, and discussed Information Society issues in the highly academic setting of the Commission, thus bringing business and industry expertise to this body.
In Germany, Peter was Chairman of the German Broadband Initiative in the mid 2000s, bringing different competing market participants (copper/fibre, cable, and wireless) as well as the EU and the German federal governments together to find ways to break the deadlock. In addition, he participated as Sherpa to the CEO of Siemens Communications in a number of high-stakes negotiations in the framework of the joint government/private sector Initiative D21, which operated together with five federal ministries to advance the Information Society in Germany. Following the German elections in the mid 2000s, Peter also participated in the proceedings of the German IT Summit chaired by the Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Our CEO’s industry experience, expertise, and broad understandings of the issues at hand come together to provide your business with excellent consulting in the field of Telecommunications Infrastructure.
For more information on our Telecommunications Infrastructure services, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.