The supply of broadband connectivity should be treated as an essential utility, according to a report from the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF). The Forum called upon cities and counties to adopt the philosophy of countries such as Finland, which rates broadband as a human right.
“In issuing this resolution, ICF seeks to translate that global aspiration to the local level, where broadband is actually deployed. In cities, states, provinces and nations around the world, broadband deployment and adoption are hindered by monopolistic or oligopolistic markets, profit-driven business models and regulatory barriers erected at the urging of incumbent Internet Service Providers. The areas most affected are those traditionally on the margins, whether due to poverty, ethnicity or low population density. ICF believes that this is no longer acceptable because broadband has become a utility as necessary to economic growth and quality of life as reliable electricity, clean water and functioning waste disposal,” states the ICF report.
The ICF says the resolution does not recommend or require public ownership of broadband assets. Instead, it is it is meant to encourage an increasing diversity of operating models including private ownership, public-private partnerships, open-access networks and community-owned networks to achieve the goal of ubiquitous coverage. It recognizes that “utility” – also called an “essential service” or “service of general interest” – is a term with legal ramifications and it recommends that each Council consider the resolution within its own unique context.
“Today’s digitalized world requires a good quality communication network,” said Suvi Linden, a UN Broadband Commissioner, former Communications Minister of Finland and recipient of ICF’s 2011 Visionary of the Year Award. “They are part of a nation’s critical infrastructure. It is a responsibility of the public sector to ensure citizens accessibility and affordability to quality broadband.”