We missed this earlier: The World Wide Web Foundation, founded by Tim Berners-Lee, published a policy brief on April 15 urging governments to make sure more people have internet access. “Only 54% of the global population is connected today, with people in poorer regions far less likely to be online, along with women, elderly people and those living in remote and rural areas,” the foundation said.
End internet shutdowns
“Internet shutdowns are a violation of human rights and must be stopped,” the brief said. “Uninterrupted access is critical” to keep citizens online, the Foundation said in its blog post. On that theme, the Web Foundation recently endorsed Facebook’s new Free Basics app, Discover, which lets users access a limited version of the internet, about 10MB worth of data, after their internet plan runs out.
1GB of data should cost less than 2% GNI per capita
The report says that governments must commit to the Contract for the Web, which states, among other things, that “1GB of mobile data [should cost] no more than 2% of average monthly income by 2025”. In India, that seems to be the case — telecom association COAI’s head Rajan Mathews told MediaNama last week that Indian consumers on average spend around 1% of GDP per capita on data, and average data consumption is over 10GB a month.
The contract also says that “Access to broadband internet [should be] available for at least 90% of citizens by 2030, and the gap towards that target is halved by 2025.”
Connectivity pledges and USOF
The report says that governments must commit to keeping people connected. It cites the US’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge, where many fixed line and wireless internet providers have pledged, in response to a request by FCC head Ajit Pai, to not charge customers late fees and open up their WiFi hotspots to anyone in need. The Foundation also pitched for Public-Private Partnerships to speed up rollout of internet services where needed. The foundation added that civil society organisations need to step up as well.
In addition, the report says countries must tap into their universal access funds. India has a Universal Service Obligation Fund, and the telecom industry recently suggested the government pay out of it if it wants telcos to give out more plans for free.
Interestingly, the Foundation also endorsed the practice of reducing video bitrates by content providers, saying that “voluntarily downgrading high-bandwidth streaming services” would help maintain “high quality across the board”. In India, COAI’s Mathews says that traffic post-lockdown has only increased by about 12–15%.