1 November 2006, 15-18 Hours
Sub-theme: Internet Connectivity: Policy and Cost.
Moderator: Ulysse Gosset, France 24
Description of Theme
Even if by now almost one billion people have access to the Internet, it should be borne in mind that five billion people remain without access to this important tool for economic growth and social development. Access may therefore be the single most important issue to most people, in particular in developing countries. Access is vital to empowering more and more individuals to explore the powerful resource that the Internet represents.
There are several factors that condition the availability and affordability of the Internet. The right regulatory environment at national level can do much to foster the deployment and growth of the Internet. National policies can encourage investment in capacity and growth, support the local exchange of traffic including the establishment of local Internet exchange points (IXPs)). They can create a favourable legal climate for supporting e-commerce, promote the extension of broadband networks, and encourage competition in the ISP industry that lowers prices. Another element that influences the availability and affordability of the Internet are international connectivity prices and costs. Interconnection standards and agreements, including peering arrangements, are critical to the successful functioning of the Internet and for maintaining its end-to-end and cost effective availability, and reliability.
What is the relevance of this theme to the IGF?
WSIS recognized the importance of an enabling environment to enhance the development of the ICT infrastructure. The Geneva Declaration specified that such an enabling environment should be accompanied by a supportive, transparent, pro-competitive, technologically neutral and predictable policy and regulatory framework. WSIS also called for the development and use of open, interoperable, non-discriminatory and demand-driven standards that take into account needs of users and consumers as a basic element for the development and greater diffusion of ICTs and more affordable access to them, particularly in developing countries. Furthermore, WSIS raised concerns regarding International Internet Connectivity (IIC) and called for the development of strategies for increasing affordable global connectivity to facilitate access for all. The consultations and the contributions received in the preparatory process of the Athens meeting emphasized the importance stakeholders attach to this issue.
What are the objectives of this session?
Panellists will explore various barriers to access that people face in terms of availability and affordability including connection costs, national policies that influence the spread of the Internet, and the role of open standards in facilitating access. Country specific examples will be shared to illustrate practical ways in which access has been addressed. Case studies will consider how access issues have been addressed successfully and what it takes to do so and highlight the policy and cost issues regarding Internet connectivity. ‘Lessons learned’ from successful examples will be a concrete take-away from this session.
This session will also explore the role both of international connectivity prices and costs and of national policies that influence the spread of the Internet in developing countries, as well as the ease of access to it.