ITU will host a high-level Strategic Dialogue featuring key speakers on 13 May 2013, the day before the opening of the World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum (#WTPF) 2013. The Strategic Dialogue will discuss our shared future built on broadband, the importance and challenges of investing in infrastructure, and the changing nature of broadband policy and regulation.
The Internet overflows with information services, content and applications that currently involve some 42,000 networks. An intricate host of different commercial transit and peering arrangements shape the Internet as we know it today. Broadband is critical infrastructure, vital for national competitiveness in the modern global economy. The role of broadband for promoting economic growth, productivity and trade is undisputed and it is increasingly clear that no country can do without broadband infrastructure.
Although the networks are not themselves public goods, the information, knowledge and education that can be provided via broadband services are commodities with potentially global reach. Broadband is disrupting and transforming how healthcare and education are delivered in developed and developing countries alike, and promises to improve people’s lives and livelihoods and accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Worldwide, however, 4.5 billion, or around two thirds of the world’s citizens, are yet to be connected – many of these are the same people for whom progress in delivering the MDGs is most relevant. Opinion is still divided however as to whether broadband – and the much-improved access to services that it can enable – represents a basic need, fundamental right or even a ‘nice-to-have’ luxury.
In this complex web of overlapping networks, should there be regulation, self-regulation or no regulation of broadband networks and/or the services carried by broadband networks? Converged regulators are increasingly common, as distinctions between infrastructure and content become blurred, but it is not always clear that policy-makers can keep up with the scale and growth in modern data traffic and social media. What is the role for public policy, and do national broadband plans really matter? And who is really driving change –policy-makers, operators, content providers, or end-users?
This year’s Strategic Dialogue at the World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum 2013 will sketch tantalizing visions of how the Internet might evolve, and debate all the associated opportunities and risks. The Strategic Dialogue offers perspectives from top industry leaders and policy pioneers for building our broadband future, and explores some of the challenges and tentative predictions for realizing that future.
By Phillippa Biggs
Phillippa ‘Pippa’ Biggs is an Economist specializing in ICTs and works for the ITU as a policy analyst. Pippa is the coordinator for the Strategic Dialogue which will be held in Geneva on the 13th of May as a curtain raiser to the World Telecommunications Policy Forum (#WTPF) from 14-16 May.