This is our sixth and final installment of the multi-part series on the granularity of the recent comprehensive white paper done for Nokia (News - Alert) by Diffraction Analysis, “Government broadband plan: 5 key policy measures that proved to make a difference. In the previous posting the focus was how inclusive and/or social offers impact broadband adoption. The last piece of the puzzle involves a brief look at the requirement of government involvement in enabling the transformation of the broadband ecosystem and the “toolbox of remedies” that can be employed by policy-makers to accelerate broadband deployment and service adoption.
As noted in the report, every country has it own unique circumstances when it comes to broadband acceleration. What the authors note is that while most of the countries that were part of the analysis addressed specific pain points, they also have had the foresight to look long term. After all, transforming network infrastructure, especially implementing an end-to-end optical-based universally accessible national network, is a long term process. The good news is that almost to a country policy makers were thinking ahead.
The Mexican example
To illustrate the above, what Mexico is doing was cited as an example. In 2013 it came up with a plan to meet the following challenges: a lack of competition, low market penetration, and low investment in infrastructure. The plan, now being implemented includes several complementary initiatives, such as:
- The creation of a network of community centers for digital education
- The connection of public buildings with broadband solutions: schools, hospitals, administrations
- The implementation of a local internet exchange point, to facilitate the exchange of traffic between service providers
- The overhaul of regulatory institutions to enable a more efficient regulatory process
- The promotion of public—private partnerships for the deployment of networks.
Where an appreciation of the need for public private partnerships comes in is in the planned investment of close to €50 billion (roughly US$650billion) for terrestrial and wireless infrastructure. Whhat stands out is that 75 percent is expected to come from the private sector. The investment is being allocated to: enable the extension of the fiber optic backbone owned by the Federal Electricity Commission, the installation of a mobile network in the 700 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands, the connection of close to 250,000 public places with broadband services, and the reinforcement of satellite solutions to ensure connectivity in remote.
What the authors recommend from looking at all of the data is that: “A transformational approach is achieved first and foremost through a willingness to change the policy frame of reference, even at the cost of ruffling a few feathers.” Such an approach must be:
- Focused on the long term: This must take into account probable political contention.
- Ambitious: An incremental approach cannot work for a host of reasons including not satisfying far-reaching expectations.
- Willing and accepting to shake the ecosystem: Policy makers must recognize that inertia by incumbent interests is the enemy and be willing to tackle such interests.
It is also noted that clearly established roles and responsibilities for what the private market can do, and what it won’t do are critical to project success. This means active courting of private initiatives so government focuses on areas that simply will not happen without government intercession.
The Toolbox of Remedies
After once again acknowledging that “there is no magic recipe to solve broadband issues in a given market,” the authors provide an interesting chart on what they call a “toolbox of remedies” that governments can take, in a mix and match manner based on unique needs that is illustrated in the chart below. It shows some of these initiatives, which goals they should achieve (availability, affordability or quality of broadband) and whether they require public funding or not.
It is useful to see that government cannot and should not go it alone and that there is much that can and should be done via public/private partnership.
If you have been following the series, and hopefully have downloaded the full report as a handy reference guide, you know that the case for strong government actions on a variety of fronts is essential to accelerating broadband. In short, plans and policies that support them really matter.
As the report concludes, there are several components are necessary for national broadband policies to deliver on their promises. These are cited as:
- A shift in mindset on the role of policy, which can only come from the policy makers themselves, both regulatory authorities and governments. Accepting that policy has a vital role to play, that it can move forward despite opposition of entrenched parties and that it will deliver measurable results.
- A driving force for change, not just in the design of the policy itself. Too often, smart policy fails in its implementation either because policy makers put too much trust in market forces or because they simply don’t see their role as one of driving the change, just of initiating it. Effective policy isX driven by constant attention, adjustments and overcoming of hurdles.
- Public funding is an important component of public policy that must be used efficiently to reinforce the impact of a broader political framework. In particular, public funding should address pain points in the market in a fair and open way so that no single player benefits from its use. In this way, the impact of funding is maximized.
These need to be put in play with a focus for the long term, not just in terms of the impacts of policy but in terms of its continuity. It is vital that policy doesn’t shift too often and that time is allowed for its impacts to be felt.
Policy makers must involve themselves in the implementation of their policies in three ways:
- The design of policy and regulation is their primary role and responsibility.
- Ensuring that the financing of initiatives that require financing is ensured throughout the life of a project is a second way in which their role is crucial. Too often, publicly financed initiatives are funded in the early years, but financing falters in later years when the initiatives are no longer in the limelight.
- Get involved operationally when public—private partnerships (or other modes of collaboration) are set up: operational follow-up is key to ensuring that the vision and goals of the policy initiatives are carried through. This follow-up must be implemented in accordance with clear and concrete objectives regarding the expected achievements, and by means of a set of monitoring tools to continuously assess the steady progress of the plan.
As has been mentioned throughout this series the imperative for governments around the world to have national broadband as an imperative is undeniable, and most countries have understood this and have projects in place. What has not been well understood is what works and why when it comes to what works best from getting from vision to realization and why. It is precisely for this reason that the report is such a valuable guide.
Edited by Maurice Nagle