Make broadband a 'basic civil right'

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has called on global leaders to make access to high-speed broadband a basic civil right.

ITU secretary-general Dr Hamadoun Toure urged politicians and industry figures at a meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development to ensure more than half of the world's population can access broadband networks by 2015.

"Broadband is the next tipping point, the next truly transformational technology. It can generate jobs, drive growth and productivity, and underpin long-term economic competitiveness," said Dr Toure.

He added: "In the 21st century, affordable, ubiquitous broadband networks will be as critical to social and economic prosperity as networks like transport, water and power."

The Broadband Commission's report includes a framework for broadband deployment and ten 'action points' designed to convince governments of the need for a broadband network.

The report has been submitted to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in New York, who said: "The Commission's report is an important contribution to our efforts to ensure that the benefits of information and communication technology can further the United Nations goals of peace, security or development for all."

While subscribers in the developed world – for example, Australia, the UK or the US – pay under 1% of average national monthly income for a fast broadband connection, in many of the world’s UN-designated Least Developed Countries, such as Ethiopia, Malawi or Niger, even a relatively slow broadband connection costs many times an average monthly salary.

Although the report is primarily directed at developing countries, many people in Australia struggle to access a high-speed internet connection.

Compare Broadband recently held a poll asking site visitors, "Do you think broadband is as necessary as utilities like gas, water and electricity?" A 78% majority of the 371 respondents said "Yes", while only 22% said "No", indicating a broadband connection is now an essential part of Australians' lives.

The National Broadband Network (NBN) will connect 93% of Australians to a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network, capable of speeds of up to 1GB a second.

However, building the network throughout the country will take eight years. In the meantime, Australians can access ADSL, mobile wireless, cable or satellite broadband technologies, depending on their location.