Colombian officials said that the internet had become essential for the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, such as education
Colombia has approved an amendment to Law 1341 of 2009, hereby declaring the internet as an essential and universal public service.
The law will guarantee the effective right of access to the internet at an affordable and competitive price, regardless of geographic location. It also mandates operators to provide customers with minimum browsing and free text bundles in the event of health and other emergencies.
Thirty sites covering health services, emergency care, the government, and education will also be zero-rated (i.e., will not consume data) as part of the new law. The specific sites have yet to be selected by the relevant government bodies.
“With this law, the internet becomes an essential public service, meaning that its importance and necessity for Colombians is comparable to that of water, electricity and gas,” said the country’s president, Ivan Duque. “Consequently, operators must guarantee the continuous provision of the service for everyone and in emergency situations, such as the pandemic, they will not be able to suspend the work of installation, adaptation and maintenance of the networks.”
While Colombia’s broadband penetration rate has been improving in recent years, there is still much work to be done. Statistics from most recent ICT Quarterly Bulletin, pertaining to January and March 2021, suggest that Colombia has more than 8 million premises passed with fixed line internet, as well as 32.9 million mobile internet accesses.
In a nation with a population of around 50 million, it is clear that there is room for improvement, especially in rural areas. Current plans from the government aim to get 70% of the country connected in 2022, a target which the government claims will be broadly supported by this new amendment.
“[This law is] a historic step for Colombia on its way to reduce the digital divide and increase opportunities for progress and development for thousands of Colombians who today live in the most remote rural areas. This law contributes to 70 percent of Colombia being connected in 2022,” said ICT minister Karen Abudinen. “The Internet has not only helped us to boost and reactivate the economy to face the effects of the pandemic, it has also allowed us to open a path of progress so that Colombians have greater opportunities for communication, learning, training and education.”
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