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The Digital Divide

Institutions in African countries pay thousands of dollars a month for internet connections which a home broadband user in North America would pay US$20 a month for. Aside from the general dampening effect this has had on uptake, unaffordable bandwidth has actually excluded African scientists from gaining access to the services of global research networks which now expect their member countries to have at least 1Gbps on international connections in order to access the advanced services and petabit data sets they now provide. Telemedicine and genetic research in particular require high bandwidths for the transfer of images, video and large data sets, other examples include high definition video, super-computing, and physics, and remote sensing data. The ATICS survey of 84 leading tertiary institutions in Africa found 850,000 students and staff with access to a total of only 100Mbps international bandwidth (www.atics.info). By contrast, Australia’s tertiary community of 250,000 share 6Gbps of international bandwidth (although even this is still insufficient to meet their needs). Currently prices on SAT-3 are up to US$15 000 / Mbps/month, while it is estimated to cost the consortium only about US$300/Mbps/month [From a posting by Dewayne Hendricks on Dave Farber's Iper list -- BSA] The biggest cause [of lack of bandwidth] is the high cost of international connections to the global telecommunication backbones. This is mainly the result of the lack of international optic fibre infrastructure, which is necessary to deliver sufficient volumes of low-cost bandwidth, and the consequent dependency on much more expensive satellite bandwidth. Less than 20 of the 54 African countries have international optic fibre cable connections, and these are currently controlled by inefficient state-owned operators which charge monopoly prices while neglecting to build the national backbones needed to carry local and international traffic. As a result, circuits from Africa to the US or Europe usually cost more than US$5000 /month1, while cross-Atlantic links between North America and Europe can now be obtained for US$2.5/Mbps/month and for US$16–30/Mpbs/month on international routes in Asia2. Mike Jensen Only in Egypt, Libya, Mauritius is the annual cost of Internet access < 10% of the annual income Market Research conducted by Paul Budde Communications OECD Broadband Statistics to June 2006 This page is directly accessible at Over the past year, the number of broadband subscribers in the OECD increased 33% from 136 million in June 2005 to 181 million in June 2006. This growth increased broadband penetration rates in the OECD from 11.7 in June 2005 to 15.5 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants one year later. The main highlights for the first half of 2006 are: Northern European countries have continued their advance with high broadband penetration rates. In June 2006, six countries (Denmark, the Netherlands, Iceland, Korea, Switzerland and Finland) led the OECD in broadband penetration, each with at least 25 subscribers per 100 inhabitants. Denmark now leads the OECD with a broadband penetration rate of 29.3 subscribers per 100 inhabitants. The strongest per-capita subscriber growth comes from Denmark, Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Each country added more than 6 subscribers per 100 inhabitants during the past year. Fibre to the home is becoming increasingly important for broadband access, particularly in countries with high broadband penetration. In Denmark, Danish power companies are rolling out fibre to consumers as they work to bury overhead power lines. Municipal broadband projects are also expanding in many northern European countries and throughout the OECD. Telecommunciation operators in several OECD countries have also begun or announced large fibre-to-the-premises rollouts. Japan leads the OECD in fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) with 6.3 million fibre subscribers in June 2006. Fibre subscribers alone in Japan outnumber total broadband subscribers in 22 of the 30 OECD countries. The total number of ADSL subscriptions in Korea and Japan have continued to decline as more users upgrade to fibre-based connections. DSL continues to be the leading platform in 28 OECD countries. Cable modem subscribers outnumber DSL in Canada and the United States. The United States has the largest total number of broadband subscribers in the OECD at 57 million. US broadband subscribers now represent 36% of all broadband connections in the OECD, up from 31% in December 2005. Canada continues to lead the G7 group of industrialized countries in broadband penetration. The breakdown of broadband technologies in June 2006 is as follows: o DSL: 63% o Cable modem: 29% o Other technologies (e.g. satellite, fibre and fixed wireless) : 8% Released: 13 October 2006 •African universities pay on average 50 times more for bandwidth than, for example, U.S. universities ($5.46/ Kbps/month vs. $0.12/Kbps/month). W. Africa $8/Kbps/month, N Africa $0.52/Kbps/month. Prpmoting African Research & Education Networking (PAREN), A study sponsored by IDRC, Jan 2005

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