Case Study: Rural Broadband Backbone

This case study looks at different approaches to extending fibre backbone into rural areas. Market forces alone are unlikely to extend optical fibre backbone into rural areas, where access to high bandwidth and reliable internet access can contribute significantly to a comprehensive pro-poor ICT policy. Even more than in urban areas, high bandwidth services such as videoconferencing can open opportunities to poor communities in terms of service provision and communication and can also support the aggregation of usage of low-bandwidth services such as e-banking, VoIP telephony and delivery of some public services.
There are various options for the provision of rural broadband backbone, from direct investment by a government-owned operator (as in India), to the provision of “open access” fibre backbone through a public/private consortium (as proposed in parts of Africa), to mechanisms that encourage infrastructure sharing and build complementary infrastructure. Funds can be raised through a variety of universal access mechanisms, and significant savings are possible through providing shared backhaul services to mobile operators who otherwise tend to build low-bandwidth dedicated solutions. Once fibre is available to rural communities, further mechanisms can be designed to extend the services and benefits to poor users.

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