The OECD called on governments to do more to encourage the development of broadband, emphasising its importance for economic, social and cultural development worldwide and warning about the risk of missed opportunities from failing to do so.
Signalling the importance attached by OECD governments to broadband development, the OECD's governing Council approved a series of Policy Recommendations to guide governments in implementing effective measures.
"Taking advantage of the opportunities provided by broadband access can enhance many areas of individual and economic activity," OECD Secretary General Donald Johnston said. "It can also, through e-government, make public administration itself more efficient and effective."
Without comprehensive action, the OECD warned, there is a danger that some countries could miss out on new market opportunities and growth through innovation and productivity increases. Broadband can also improve the efficiency, availability and reach of public sector services in areas such as healthcare and education, it noted.
Broadband grew faster than ever before in OECD countries during 2003, six years after the introduction of broadband via DSL and cable modem services. High-speed Internet is now available to three in four households in OECD countries, with an average subscription rate in areas where it is available of around 25%. In 2003 the number of subscriptions increased from 56 to 82 million.
However, penetration varies widely between OECD countries. In Korea, which introduced broadband in 1998, more than two thirds of all households subscribe to broadband services, whereas Greece and the Slovak Republic only began introducing broadband in 2003.
The OECD said more needs to be done in expanding service to remote and rural areas and promoting broadband in countries with relatively low penetration rates. But it also noted that technological developments such as wireless are providing competition for existing platforms and viable business models for extending broadband to small communities. According to the OECD, government policy should pay particular attention to neutrality between different technologies. Policy should also enhance trust in the use of ICT by business and consumers by addressing issues such as information security and spam, on which the OECD recently organised a workshop hosted by the European Commission.
"We welcome the OECD's important contributions to the debate on emerging broadband infrastructure, services and applications and highlight the importance of private sector investment, competition, content development and delivery," said Dr. Andrea Camanzi, Chairman for Information, Computer and Communications Policy of the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC). BIAC represents the major industry and employers' organisations in the 30 OECD countries.
The document, Recommendation of the Council on Broadband Development as well as other relevant OECD references and statistics will be available shortly on the Organisation's website at www.oecd.org/sti/ict. The BIAC Broadband Manifesto is available at www.biac.org. For further information, journalists are invited to contact Hugo Parr, ICCP chairman (tel. 47 2224 6600) or Pekka Lindroos, Head of the OECD's Information, Computer and Communications Policy Division (tel.+33 1 4524 9355).