Licence obligations

In most countries, telecommunication operators are awarded licences that specify their rights and obligations. Conditions can be included in licences, such as roll-out requirements and nationwide coverage. Although the conditions are often defined in general terms, there are examples of specific requirements for the education sector.

The Ministry of Communications in Brazil launched the National Rural Telecommunications Program in 2009, which is intended to increase Internet access for rural populations. The programme is linked to the 450-470 MHz band spectrum auction. As part of the licence conditions, companies awarded spectrum will be required to provide free Internet access for rural public schools in their concession areas. They were expected to launch services by 2010, and to cover their entire concession areas by 2015. The Ministry of Communications aims to achieve Internet coverage for more than 80,000 schools in rural areas through the programme. ANATEL, the country’s telecommunication regulator, will have the task of devising measures to implement the directive.127

Brazil also provides an example of modifying licence conditions in favour of school connectivity. The Ministry of Communications developed its Broadband in Schools programme in 2008. Originally, telephone service operators had obligations under their licences to provide public pay phones. The Ministry and the operators agreed to eliminate this obligation in favour of one requiring operators to provide connections of at least one Mbps to urban public schools, at no cost. As of July 2009, more than 50 per cent of Brazil’s 56,720 urban public schools were connected under the programme and 100 per cent of these schools must be covered by the end of 2010.128

In South Africa, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) issues licences with obligations designed to lessen the "digital divide." As part of its "community service obligation" (CSO), telecommunication operator Neotel must provide high-speed Internet connectivity to public schools and other educational institutions.129

Another example is mobile operator Vodacom. As part of its 3G licence obligations, Vodacom is required to provide broadband wireless connectivity to 5,000 schools over an eight-year period.130 The implementation of these obligations depends on the Ministry of Education acting to identify the schools to be connected.

127 Portaria No. 431 on National Rural Telecommunications Programme, 23 July 2009, available at: http://www.mc.gov.br/noticias/2009/ministerio-das-comunicacoes-cria-programa-nacional/
128 http://portal.mec.gov.br/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10264
129Toks Dele Ovedem, Social Inequalities and the South African ICT Access Policy Agendas, International Journal of Communication 3 (2009), 151-168, availablke at: 129Toks Dele Ovedem
130 http://www.vodacom.com/education.php

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