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March/April 2001
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Papallacta Manifesto

Tele-centros.org proposes policy recommendations to reduce inequalities

Access to adequate telecommunications is a necessity in this era of increased networking, digitized information, and provision of goods and services through the Internet. In the past, adequate or basic meant voice telephone service. In 2000 it also includes access to networked information, communications technology, and services on the Internet. Citizens who have knowledge of computers and who can use the information technology add to the collective wealth in their country. Some countries have already committed public policies to universal access that include the Internet.

Given the increasing disparity in wealth and the ability to afford these services in all countries, government regulatory agencies must guarantee universal access at a reasonable cost by all citizens and organizations irrespective of their geographic location. This can be achieved by a combination of commercial competition and cheaper and more powerful computing technologies.

Organizations that serve the public are demanding a regulatory policy that reduces the current inequalities in the areas of access to and use of digital services and information. Those organizations include schools, public libraries, health centers, community centers, telecenters, and nonprofit groups dedicated to providing access to the new information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Tele-centros.org is a community of persons and organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean whose membership has worked for several years to achieve the goal of providing many types of services in many communities throughout the region. Many of those communities had in the past been excluded from access to telephone and Internet services. Tele-centros.org recommends the following policies as examples of regulatory change that should be undertaken to realize the goal.

1. Universal service--including basic telephony and access to the Internet--should be a component of the regulatory framework in all countries.

2. Domestic regulations should recognize the legitimacy of special arrangements and discounts in favor of educational, social, and cultural organizations that provide access to or that facilitate use of the Internet for the majority of people underserved at this moment.

3. Access to advanced and broadband services should be available for rural and remote locations.

4. When a new telecommunications technology requires permission or license from the government, the groups providing public access should be afforded special treatment, including favorable discounts for connectivity and the equipment needed to make use of it.

5. A section of the public unlicensed radio spectrum for spreading connectivity should be set aside in rural and remote parts of a country or in other parts that are underserved and have few or no choices in the marketplace.

6. An advisory group within the ITU and drawn from the public-access sector should be established that would be briefed on new technologies and resulting policy changes that would affect the aforementioned groups.

7. A forum for open dialogue should be created to give groups and organizations of civil society the opportunity for input in the public-telecommunications-policy process.

For more information, visit www.tele-centros.org. Sign the form at www.chasquinet.org/tele-centros/guest/addguest2.html if you approve.

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