Broadband is a right - Cisco

2012-11-23 11:01
Cisco managing director Alpheus Mangale has said that broadband should a right of every citizen. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Cisco managing director Alpheus Mangale has said that broadband should a right of every citizen. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Broadband should be regarded as a utility and everyone should have a right to high speed internet connections, an industry player has said.

"The government should look at broadband as a fourth utility - that's the only way it can work," Alpheus Mangale, managing director of Cisco told News24.

Broadband should be added to the existing utilities of water, electricity and sewerage to facilitate faster rollout of services, especially in rural areas, Mangale insisted.

He added that SA was well-placed to learn from countries where broadband had a higher penetration and number of subscribers.

"It's a very important policy around broadband. We can also learn from the likes of Sweden. There is a higher penetration of broadband in Sweden than any other country."

Rural areas

Cable broadband is particularly hampered by the high cost of service as well as the hardware that users have to purchase. These serve as a barrier to access for the poor and makes mobile far more attractive.

Rural areas are particularly under-serviced because of the cost of delivering services to few people. It is unlikely that private companies will rollout services in an area where they are unlikely to make a profit.

"Government has to realise that they have to play a role where we might have to invest a lot of money to rollout that broadband infrastructure for the poor because you're not going to have the big players or the big operators coming to say 'We're going to deploy broadband in a little village in Limpopo.' There's no business case to do that.

"If we treat it as a fourth utility and the government actually creates the investment and puts money into rolling out that broadband, then the majority of South Africans will have access to that," Mangale argued.

For him, the issue is a personal one because of his rural roots. Mangale said that his history had taught him the value of having access to services like electricity in outlying areas.

"I can relate to this, I come from a rural area. If I go back to my village, I see areas where we didn't have electricity being lit up. What I don't see is broadband being rolled out at the same rate.

"I still people having to travel long distances to get to an internet café; in some areas they don't even have an internet café. It doesn't have to take 100 years."

Mass rollout

Internet penetration remains a stumbling block to development in countries like SA and the industry struggles to match the growth on the mobile networks which have been widely adopted as costs have come down.

While Mangale concedes that achieving 100% broadband penetration is unlikely, he insists that a mass rollout plan would make a difference to the lives of ordinary South Africans.

"The broadband should be considered that way: It's a right that everybody should have. Imagine if we focus on 80% broadband penetration in rural areas. All of a sudden, you've given hope to somebody."

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