President Obama’s visit to Colombia last weekend for the Summit of the Americas included an exciting new broadband announcement: the Broadband Partnership of the Americas (BPA), a vital new collaboration to expand broadband access in the Americas. The Summit of the Americas is convened every three or four years to bring together heads of state in the Americas to discuss issues critical to the region. This year’s Summit theme -- Connecting the Americas: Partnership for Prosperity -- focused on the role of physical integration and regional cooperation in fostering economic growth and development across the Hemisphere. Not surprisingly, access to broadband played a lead role.
Studies show that broadband networks and broadband connectivity drive economic growth and development, and provide an important platform to address social issues including poverty, health care and education. A study by the World Bank found that in less developed economies, every 10% increase in broadband penetration accelerates economic growth by approximately 1.38 percentage points, even grater than the 1.21 percentage points increase found in developed economies. Over the past 15 years, the Internet has enabled as much economic growth per capita as the Industrial Revolution generated in its first 50 years.
That’s why we’re eager to partner with USAID to support the Broadband Partnership, which will serve as a voluntary and flexible framework for advancing regional cooperation on the expansion and use of broadband. While we in the Americas have achieved impressive mobile coverage and penetration (often above 100%), improvement is still needed in the reach and use of broadband, such as access to the Internet. Meeting these challenges will require a variety of technologies, including both wireline and wireless, as well as close partnerships between government and the private sector.
The FCC will be working with USAID to support the participating countries of the Broadband Partnership to improve broadband access by:
- Providing technical assistance and other resources available through the FCC’s International Visitor’s Program and the U.S. government’s Technology Leadership Program;
- Mobilizing private and public sector resources to expand broadband access through the FCC’s relationship with Connect to Compete and USAID’s Global Broadband and Innovations (GBI) Alliance with NetHope and other similar partnerships; and
- Exploring alliances with regional multilateral organizations that have similar programs.
Sharing the successes and challenges of the various broadband initiatives that have been undertaken by governments and regulators around the region will be critical as we continue to move towards enhancing our broadband connectivity. For example, the FCC recently adopted an order that comprehensively reforms and modernizes the universal service and intercarrier compensation systems to ensure that robust, affordable voice and broadband service, both fixed and mobile, are available throughout the United States
We look forward to using this initiative to help bridge the digital divide in the Americas and expand the use of broadband technologies for the continued benefit of our region.
Please visit http://transition.fcc.gov/ib/usaid_fact.pdf for more information on the Broadband Partnership of the Americas.