It is a truism that one cannot mobilize effort to solve a “problem” until the problem has been identified. “We are not making progress fast enough” therefore is a requirement for advocates of all policies seeking to make progress faster.
For that reason, it never is surprising that some advocates constantly point out how much further we have to do, where it comes to making affordable communications and Internet access available to all.
For others the problem is simply myopia; inability to see how far, and how fast we have come; and how fast we continue to make progress.
It is important, when looking at the state of fixed network high speed access, to consider where we are about to be, not just where we are. In fact, that has proven to be a crucial distinction in many other areas related to global telecommunications over the last few decades.
There as a time when it was widely claimed that billions of people had never made a phone call. That might still be true in some cases, but largely now is not a serious problem. Consider progress since 2000, when globally, perhaps 60 percent of people had a mobile phone.
By 2015, that had reached nearly 97 percent of the world’s population, according to the International Telecommunications Union.
That might not seem especially surprising to people who knew what the adoption rates were in the 1980s and 1990s. Consider that in 1998, a bit more than 15 percent of people had a mobile phone service.
The point is that where we are, right now, does not tell us where we are going to be, in a relatively short order. Internet availability and Internet speeds will climb very rapidly. Prices will moderate dramatically in developing regions, and will remain affordable in developed regions.
Likewise, in 1997, just 11 percent of people in developed regions and fewer than one percent of people in developing regions had Internet access. By 2007, developed world Internet access had climbed to 62 percent.
Developed world access had grown to 17 percent.
By 2014, developed world Internet access had reached 78 percent, while developing world access had grown to 32 percent. By communication industry standards, that is rapid growth, indeed.
Access speeds also are growing fast. In the U.S. market, consumer Internet access speeds have been improving nearly at Moore’s Law rates (doubling every 24 months or so), and that seems to be the trend in many markets.
The point is that we err when focusing too much on existing gaps, and failing to see the huge changes that will rectify nearly all gaps, faster than many would think possible.