Snapshot: 2015 update on the global state of broadband Internet

A brief examination of the latest results published by the Broadband Commission on the state of broadband Internet globally, and how they measure up against the targets set.

In a press release following the launch of the latest Broadband Commission report on the
State of Broadband 2015, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) honed in on one of the report’s key findings: global broadband growth has slowed sharply. As a result, more than half of the world’s population is still not online (ITU).

The report, which we will be discussing in fuller detail next week, highlights and tracks the extent to which the countries worldwide – 196 in total – have achieved the following broadband targets for 2015:

Target 1: Making broadband policy universal. By 2015, all countries should have a national broadband plan or strategy or include broadband in their Universal Access / Service Definitions.

Target 2: Making broadband affordable. By 2015, entry-level broadband services should be made affordable in developing countries through adequate regulation and market forces (amounting to less than 5% of average monthly income).

Target 3: Connecting homes to broadband. By 2015, 40% of households in developing countries should have Internet access.

Target 4: Getting people online. By 2015, Internet user penetration should reach 60% worldwide, 50% in developing countries and 15% in LDCs.

(Source:  Broadband Commission)

In the paragraphs that follow, a synopsis of the state of broadband globally as at mid-2015, with projections for what is likely to be achieved by the end of the calendar year, are presented.

Target 1: Making broadband policy universal.

The preparation and adoption of national broadband plans or strategies is still not ubiquitous worldwide. As at the writing of the report, 148 countries having adopted a national plan. Although six other countries has indicated that they intend to adopt a plan, 42 countries  still do not have any form of plan, and there appears to be little indication that one will be adopted in the foreseeable future.

It is also worth noting that in some countries, their national broadband plans are fast approaching obsolescence, that is, the period in which they were specified to effective, e.g. 2010—2015. However, the needed effort to revise the plan does not appear to be readily evident.

Target 2: Making broadband affordable

The Broadband Commission was able to report that over the past five years, fixed-broadband services have become more affordable. Form 2010, prices as a share of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita have dropped by 65% on average worldwide.

Regarding the target of having a basic broadband plan account for less than 5% of GNI, at the end of 2014, 111 countries had achieved it. Interestingly, 60% of the countries that achieved that target are developing countries.

Target 3: Connecting homes to broadband

For 2015, the Commission projects that only 34.1% of households in developing countries will be online, which although reflects a steady increase from previous years, still falls short of the 40% target set. (Among developed countries, household Internet access reportedly is close to saturation, with more than 81.3% of households connected.)

However, regarding developing countries, the Commission was quick to emphasise that a wide disparity exists among that grouping. There are still countries, such as those in the Sub-Sahara and those classified as Least Developed Countries (Haiti, for example in the Caribbean), where around 10% of households have Internet access, as opposed to the one in three that the aggregated figure suggests.

Target 4: Getting people online

Finally, the Commission anticipates that by the end of 2015, 43.4% of the total world population, or approximately 3.2 billion people will be online, which is under the 60% global target to be achieved by the end of this year. With regard to the Internet penetration target set for developing countries – 50% – it is estimated that by the end of 2015, 35.3% will be achieved.
In summary, though it could be argued that the targets set by the Broadband Commission in 2010 were highly ambitious, and so were impossible to achieve by 2015, their existence reiterated the importance of the Internet globally. More importantly they could have provided countries with the impetus needed to try to address the keys areas that were the focus of the targets, thus putting them in a better position than they would have been otherwise.


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