The Global “Last Mile” Solution: High-Altitude Broadband Infrastructure

Cite as: 4 GEO. L. TECH. REV. 47 (2019)

High-speed Internet access, otherwise known as broadband,1 is considered essential for partaking in the 21st-century economy; the Internet today is considered as important as road and energy infrastructure in terms of its potential to enhance socioeconomic development.2 Broadband, a subset of telecommunications infrastructure that includes wire-based and wireless communications networks, is currently a priority in most countries aiming to bridge the “digital divide,”3 or the phenomenon of being excluded from the information society, usually for lack of availability and affordability.4 Well-documented in both developed and developing countries, the digital divide is undeniably global, even after factoring in the increased rates of access in developing countries to less costly wireless-based mobile broadband services, as opposed to fixed wireline services, such as DSL or fiber.5 In 2016, the proportion of the population covered by a mobile broadband network reached eighty-four percent globally and sixty-seven percent in rural areas; LTE or faster networks covered about one half of the global population.6 Unsurprisingly, broadband is an important item on the global agenda. The United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) acknowledge the importance of universal access to broadband, encouraging public and private actors alike to bridge the global digital divide by tackling Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure underdevelopment.7

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Snezhana Stadnik Tapia

Associate at Sidley Austin LLP, focusing on international arbitration and privacy and cybersecurity matters; J.D., New York University School of Law, 2018.