“By a quick show, of hands, how many out there think broadband is a luxury?” asked Mashable editor Lance Ulanoff at a recent “Social Good Summit” about broadband service. There was little response. “How many think it’s a right?”

The answer was clear and echoed by the enthusiastic applause of the audience responding to the second question. Broadband is a service consumers expect and feel makes the world a better place.

Large and small businesses alike can take advantage of technologies that would have been impossible before the days of broadband. From being able to accept credit cards through your phone or tablet, keeping sales records and contact information in the palm of your hand, to live updates of your fan pages (and fan pages themselves!), and cloud backup storage for all of your files, broadband has left the confines of the office.

As broadband usage spreads throughout the developing world, the chances of global sales are becoming a daily reality too. “Broadband is too important to society to be relegated to a small, privileged portion of the population,” said Hans Vestberg, president and CEO of Ericsson and panel member during the discussion. He also pointed out the link between broadband services and economic growth.

“Endless studies have been done across the globe,” Vestberg said, “For every 10 percent of broadband penetration, you get 1 percent of sustainable GDP.”

Faster internet speeds mean the ability to do more business. Not capitalizing on broadband penetration can also be a curse if its use and abilities are only left to larger businesses.

The world recently hit a major milestone- more than 1 billion people now have mobile broadband subscriptions, defined as 3G or higher. Within the next five years, that number is expected to soar to 5 billion.

Vestberg serves on the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which late last month published, “The State of Broadband 2012.” The report analyzes the current distribution of broadband worldwide and maps out goals for increased access. This is primarily measured through smart phones.

The so-called “digital gap” is shrinking. In 2002 an estimated 8 percent of the world’s population was online but by 2012 that number has increased to more than 33 percent. While most of the growth is happening in the developing world now, U.S. broadband saturation has opened up possibilities of new sales. Consumers expect to do business through the internet more and more, and broadband has made this happen.

“It’s no longer a luxury,” the UN Panel on broadband concluded. “We see this is a fundamental tool that is expected by everyone.”


Is Mobile Broadband a Luxury or Human Right? CNN Money, 10/9/12

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