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White Paper on Right To Broadband (RTB) as a Basic Human Right

By

Col Mahesh Khera

Right to Broadband (RTB) as a Basic Human Right

ITU has enabled the UN to declare that Right To Broadband (RTB), or very simply put, access to Internet, is already given the status of a basic human right on the lines of right to life, right to food, right to education and so on. UN believes that RTB is a fundamental right of all people in their hands and if governments decide to take away this right from their hands, it becomes a very powerful bomb ready to explode to even bring down the government.

NTP 2012 also envisages that the government should provide at least 2 mbps access to 175 million people by 2017 and to 600 people by 2020. On RTB, NTP 2012, states that the country should work towards the full realization of it as a fundamental right of every citizen but does not lay down any concrete policy or a time bound action plan to declare RTB as a fundamental right of every Indian.

Right vs Brass tacks

Why do we talk about RTB as a fundamental right? Far from making it an ornamental addition in the list of Acts which India keeps adding, the brass tacks need to be understood. The canvas touched by RTB is really very big and many times, beyond human imagination. Telecom, Media and Technology (TMT) have been the drivers in quick conversion of hitherto physical world into a digital world. Our work, business, education, health care, safety, social and entertainment needs are met much better if we quickly are able to communicate our thoughts to those who matter surpassing the barriers of space and time. This calls for Internet access availability any time any where a pre-requisite giving the much needed import to broadband being treated as an essential service much like water, sewerage, electricity and gas. If we can add mobility to it also, nothing better than that can be thought of.

Why RTB Act

An Act gives the necessary powers to the executives to start demanding the wherewithal, support and obligations from all parties, center, state and local governments. Each one refers to the Act and simply accepts its own role as an obligation and duty. Right Of Way (ROW) is inescapable in order to create the necessary telecom infrastructure so that access to broadband can be delivered to every citizen. RTB Act has the potential to remove the barriers coming in the way of actual deployment and roll out of services which together make up Internet access.

Telecom as an Essential Infrastructure

For Internet access to be made as a fundamental right, telecom infrastructure must be declared as an essential component of every living and work place as a ubiquitous need. RTB Act would pave the way to get this much needed status accorded to the telecom infrastructure.

Growth and Governance

Economic growth and fair and efficient government services are the keys to development of nations. The developed countries, all of them score much higher in these two indices of growth and governance. Rest of the world is trying to improve these two vital parameters to cross over to the developed country status. The Broadband Commission of the ITU, under the sanctity of UN has unequivocally declared the every 10 % of broadband penetration enhances the GDP growth by 1.38 %. All the 40 developed countries are top in the index of least corrupt nations and each one has adopted e –governance as the only method of all Government to Citizen (G2C) services as also in every other obligation of the government to the country.
The coThe country has seen an allocation of a $ trillion in the current plan as a financial outlay. Imagine the huge capital available for most essential infrastructure projects like rail, roads, power, airports, ports, education, health care, transportation, agriculture and so on. Even this much outlay cannot be handled well in the absence of National E Tendering and Procurement System (NETPS). The financial outlay is going to increase with every five year plan making it more and more difficult to manage unless the matching NETPS is also available to the persons responsible to manage the project finance. All of this in the absence of NETPS is a bed rock of poor governance leading to increase in corruption. RTB Act will speed up the availability of wherewithal required for quick and truthful investigation and taking the correct measures to set the wrongs right.

Internet.org Aims to Bring Web to Next 5 Billion People

Just the most recent announcement of a private consortium to provide internet access to remaining two third of the people of the world highlights the huge compelling necessity for the economic growth. Coupled with education, internet access is seen as a very potent mean to create additional jobs directly reducing the poverty. If the initiative of the world’s top private companies is anything to go by, it is important for India to appreciate this and just come out with a legal framework to declare RTB as a fundamental and basic right of all Indians as also bring out a comprehensive policy for its implementation irrespective of the different ideologies of various political parties..

Internet.org is a new industry consortium announced by Face book CEO Mark Zuckerberg founded with Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung. The group aims to bring internet to the next 5 billion people. Today, only 2.7 billion people, or just over one third of the world's population, has access to the internet. Internet adoption is growing by less than 9 percent each year, which is slow considering it's still in early development.

The goal of Internet.org is to bring the web to the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected, and to bring the same opportunities to everyone that the connected third of the world has today. The founding members will develop joint projects, share knowledge, and mobilize industry and governments to bring the world online.

Web groups have been working closely with mobile operators and expect them to play leading roles within the initiative, which over time will also include NGOs, academics and experts as well. Internet.org is influenced by the Open Compute Project.

The consortium will focus on three key challenges in developing countries, namely making access affordable, using data more efficiently, and helping businesses drive access. "As a world leader in mobile solutions for emerging markets having powered more than 300 million smart devices within 2 years, MediaTek whole heartedly supports the internet.org initiative," said MK Tsai, chairman of MediaTek. "Global internet and social media access represent the biggest shift since the industrial revolution, and we want to make it all-inclusive.

Need to Provide Internet Access to 750 million EWS Indians

The telecom liberalization since 1994 has delivered phones in the hands of about 450 million Indians. Still there are 750 million Indians who are without phones. While efforts are being made to provide phones to even these 750 million EWS Indians, there is a dire need to also bring about rules to provide even internet access to these EWS too. A RTB just ensures that the entire machinery is geared up to ensure that equitable internet access is available to all Indians.

High Performance India

Our software manpower has done wonders when they have gone out of the country and got the necessary wherewithal to deliver outstanding results. How do we visualize a High Performance India? High performance comes when the country provides the best wherewithal to its human capital which is second to none in the world. The country delivers high performance when it competes hard with the best and beats them. All this is enabled when best tools and technology is given to the people of the country. India cannot sit quiet thinking that high performance is only reserved for the developed countries. We need to make it happen. RTB Act can enable the retrieval and flow of information across the world quick and accurate giving the much needed edge to our people.

Conclusion

RTB is not just an Act but is an essential provision to fuel the related pieces of work required to keep the growth and governance going only in the upward direction for every country. Right from meeting the day to day work and business needs, it even has the potential to throw out the rogue regime by people’s power. India would do well to quickly work out the details of RTB Act say by 2014 so that before 2015, this is in place and the country is on a historic path to further strengthen its democracy apart from enhancing its growth and governance.
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