Public Policies for Broadband Development in the European Union: New Trends for Universalisation of Services

Public Policies for Broadband Development in the European Union: New Trends for Universalisation of Services

Claudio Feijoo (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain), José Luis Gómez Barroso (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Spain), Sergio Ramos (Redtel, Spain) and David Rojo-Alonso (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-699-0.ch022
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The European Lisbon strategy considers that the generalised availability of broadband accesses is one of the European Union’s greatest challenges. In this context, the EU member states have launched information society development programmes which dedicate major sections to fighting against the digital exclusion and plan the geographical extension of broadband accesses. In all of them, it is acknowledged the role of public policies in complementing the effective operation of the market, addressing both the supply and demand sides. The aim of this chapter is to review how the objective of generalised broadband deployment can be achieved, and what instruments the public administrations are using to pursue it. The chapter includes, in particular, a comparison of practical implementations of broadband development policies, their relationships with universal service obligations, and, finally, the implications of using this segmented approach.
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Background: Access As A Main Cause Of The Digital Divide

Two are the key factors on which actions should be taken to fight against the digital divide: access, that is, providing connection to the appropriate infrastructures, and adoption, or, in other words, encouraging their usage considering the social, economic and political characteristics of the targeted clients and communities. Access is the prior condition: the first requirement for “digital conduct” is the physical infrastructure (ECLAC, 2002). Adoption gives economical and social meaning to access and, consistently, is a much more complex question: content, applications and language, literacy and education, entry barriers (penetration of personal computers, for example), and community and institutional structures must all be taken into account if meaningful access to technologies is to be provided (Warschauer, 2002).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Demand aggregation: Method that provides “visibility” to the purchasing requests generally through the process of coordinating and consolidating individual requirements.

European Commission: Institution of the European Community (Commission of the European Communities) which ensures the application of the provisions of the Treaty. The Commission develops Community policies, proposes Community legislation and exercises powers in specific areas.

Member state: Anyone of the twenty-seven sovereign nation states that have acceded the European Union.

Market Failure: Economic term that encompasses a situation where, in a given market, the market mechanism fails to allocate goods or resources efficiently.

Universal Service: Availability of specific services for which non-discriminatory access and generalized economic affordability are guaranteed.

Broadband: “Broad bandwidth” connection which allows a large amount of data to travel through a medium at the same time. There are many definitions about what a “large amount of data” entails. They are all relative and changing with time.

Directive: European Union law which lays down certain end results that must be achieved in every Member State. National authorities have to adapt their laws to meet these goals, but are free to decide how to do so.

Digital Divide: Expression useful for informing of the existence of groups or regions which will not be prepared to make the most of the important social and economic opportunities promised by the emerging society of information.

Universal service obligation: Mechanism (usually, a requirement made to a private company) needed for users to exercise the rights which are included in the universal service concept.

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