Why has Ukraine fallen behind the rest of the world in terms of providing the population with Internet?

13-06-2017

Source: delo.ua.

Internet to every home or what the state does to provide its citizens with the right to information.

The broadband internet access (BBA) is a basic service allowing to use other digital features. The United Nations recognized the right of access to the Internet as a basic human right in 2011.

The organization says that every state should be responsible for providing the availability of the Internet to the wider population. As stated in the UN resolution, due to its unique and transforming character, the Internet not only enables individuals to exercise their right to freedom of opinions and share them, but also stimulates the development of society in general.

Therefore, developed countries are concerned about the development of fixed BBA as the most reliable and the main way to access the Internet. For example, the European Union set a goal to provide 100% of the population with the opportunity to connect at least at 30 Mbit/s and 50% of the population – at100 Mbit/s by 2020. Germany is implementing even a more ambitious plan: to provide the connection at least at 50 Mbit/s for 100% of the population within 2018. Norway set a goal to provide 90% of households with the Internet access at least at 100 Mbit/s by 2020.

However, the Ukrainian legislation doesn’t contain even an official definition of BBA, not to mention specific programmes to develop the networks. Only the “Strategy for Sustainable Development “Ukraine 2020” says that “according to the World Bank, the share of the broadband Internet will be 25 subscribers per 100 people”.

Compared to the current index – 11.8 subscribers – this may seem to be a progress. In fact, even this figure will make Ukraine an outsider, because today the number of fixed BBA subscribers per 100 people is 31 persons in neighboring Belarus, 27 – in Hungary and 23 – in Slovakia.

At the same time, the index of 11.8 is somewhat manipulative and does not give the honest presentation of the situation. The existence of so-called “digital divide”, in other words, situations when the availability of BBA is very different in big cities and small villages, is a painful issue in Ukraine. According to the National Commission for state regulation of communications and informatization, 1.4 million of 5 million or 27% of fixed BBA subscribers are concentrated in Kyiv and in the capital together with the region – more than 30%. In addition to the above, only 11% of the population live in the capital region.

A large proportion is recorded in major cities. Almost 60% of fixed BBA users live in Kyiv, Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Odesa, Lviv and Kharkiv regions. This situation deepens inequality in rights and opportunities for people and causes social injustice and economic disparity.

Does the state make something to improve the situation?

The Law of Ukraine “On access to infrastructure of construction, transportation and energy facilities to develop telecommunication networks” can be considered as the first effective step towards increasing the availability of fixed BBA. It regulated the basic issues of access to infrastructure facilities, which are often controlled by monopolists imposing unjustified conditions and prices. For comparison, the monthly fee for access to one pole is 2.5 hryvnas in Kherson region and 15.95 hryvnas in Rivne region. It is unlikely that this difference can be explained by climatic or other characteristics of regions.

This law will become fully operational only after the development of access rules and methods of charging for access to each type of infrastructure. The following agencies are responsible for the development and approval of relevant acts: the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Regional Development, the Ministry of Infrastructure, the NEURC, the NCCIR and the Derzhspetszviazok (State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection). However, despite the fact that the law has been signed by the President on March 2, no document has not been adopted as yet, so the development of telecommunication networks continues to be slowed down.

The BBA availability is not enough to ensure that the Internet meets rapidly growing requirements of users. The quality is a rather hot issue. Operators and providers often provide poor quality services to consumers due to ignoring the definition of BBA in laws as well as related limited technical and methodological possibilities of the NCCIR.

While today Europe is thinking about the “fast BBA” at from 30 Mbit/s to 100 Mbit/s and “ultrafast BBA” at more than 100 Mbit/s, the most domestic operators do not mention in contracts the minimum speed they provide the Internet access with or give nominal figures of 64 kbit/s, that is 68 times less than the required available level in Europe!

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, there is even no definition of BBA, and these legal “delays” slow down not only the development of the Internet, but the country as a whole. Without a radical improvement of the situation in the fixed BBA market, our country will be among the third world countries and the level of public access to information, education and other opportunities offered by the digital era will limit opportunities of Ukrainian people for development and realization.

The availability of BBA services and their appropriate quality in every settlement of the country should be a key priority for development of the telecommunications industry in Ukraine. We will discuss this issue with the government and market participants as part of the roundtable “Internet to everyone: pain points of broadband access regulation” this Thursday, on June 15. Join, it concerns all of us!         

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