Until recently, the Internet was usually accessed through fixed landline connections. Today, the prevalence of smartphones, wireless networks and high-speed mobile phone networks has enabled millions more to come online. This volume’s first three chapters analyze issues of access in specific emerging markets, sharing the authors’ research on affordability and relevance of Internet access as well as the gaps in availability, user skills and other factors that create barriers to connection.
Of course, issues of access go beyond infrastructure arrangements and dispersion. The political contexts of connection and jockeying among competitive service or content providers also play roles in determining availability and affordability. Even where citizens have excellent access, information flows can be restricted by government censorship. Chapters four and five examine the nature and ramifications of net neutrality. A related access issue is zero-rating, a low-cost or no-cost service offered by some private companies in emerging markets, considered in chapter six.
In a global digital economy and public sphere, questions such as the regulation of network interconnection are not merely local problems or ones affecting end-users but intensely debated at the international level. The final chapter analyses the role of global swing states in the Internet governance debate.
The Global Commission on Internet Governance coalesced around the primary objective of “One Internet” that is “protected, accessible to all and trusted by everyone.” The researchers represented here remind us of the challenges and work ahead to enable a digital future for the billions globally who are still offline.