Cheap internet for rural areas

2009-06-23 19:36

Parliament - The government will be required to provide poor, rural areas with cheap broadband internet access, Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda said on Tuesday.

"Markets are not likely to deliver to the majority of the population in the near future without some form of government intervention," Nyanda said in his budget vote speech to Parliament.

"The rate of broadband deployment in urban and high income areas outpaces deployment in rural and low-income areas. Government will be required to ensure coverage particularly to rural areas."

Nyanda said his department had "commenced consultations" with provinces and municipalities regarding the rollout of broadband infrastructure.

A National Broadband Policy would be finalised by March 2010, he said.

"It will outline targeted interventions to encourage the uptake and usage of broadband services across the country, particularly in remote rural and underserviced areas.

"We have to ensure that, as the country moves to the information society and knowledge economy driven by modern technologies, the poor are not left behind.

"People need access to information and services, irrespective of their social or economic status, without them having to travel long distances to access these."

Nyanda said the department would develop a programme of action to improve the cost of Information and Communication Technology Services.

"To date access to electronic communication and network services, especially broadband and the internet, remain unaffordable and thus beyond the reach of large sectors of our people.

"I will be appointing an independent panel of experts, whose recommendations will assist me to design appropriate interventions to address the cost to communicate effectively," he said.