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Connections is a weekly series of knowledge notes from the World Bank Group’s Transport & Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Global Practice. It covers projects, experiences, and front-line developments.

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    Russia’s Ambitious Broadband Goal: Is the Progress Sustainable?
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-03) Gelvanovska, Natalija ; Rossotto, Carlo Maria ; Gunzburger, Michael Lee
    In 2012, the Russian Federation announced one of the world’s more ambitious broadband Internet development goals: providing 80 percent of Russian households with ultrafast connection speeds - at least 100 megabits per second (Mbps) by 2018.1 That goal exceeds the current targets in Germany and the European Union, and it is about equivalent to those currently being pursued by countries with ambitious strategic broadband connectivity goals, including Denmark, Sweden, and the United States. As part of the effort to reach its 2018 target, the Russian government recently tasked Rostelecom - a largely state-owned enterprise and the dominant firm in Russia’s broadband market - with the responsibility of connecting 4 million people (about 2.8 percent of all households) in small, widely scattered settlements throughout Russia by installing 200,000 kilometers of fiber-optic cable providing speeds of at least 10 Mbps. The assignment is both a great opportunity and a huge challenge for Rostelecom and for the entire Russian broadband sector. What can Russia do to ensure Rostelecom’s successful completion of its specific task as well as the success of the broader 2018 target?
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    Key Pathways to High-Speed Internet in the Middle East and North Africa: Spurring Competition and Building New Networks
    (World Bank Group, Washington, DC, 2015-03) Gelvanovska, Natalija ; Rogy, Michel ; Rossotto, Carlo Maria
    Most countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are falling behind in their quest to develop high-speed Internet for rapid socioeconomic development. Despite young adults’ rising use of social networking tools and solid progress in a few countries, most of the region’s Internet remains hobbled by monopolized, inadequate infrastructure; weak investment incentives; and high costs. High-speed (broadband) Internet can drive economic and social transformations. To realize that potential, a recent World Bank study finds that MENA countries must pursue a three-pronged approach: reduce costs by fully liberalizing access to the existing Internet infrastructure; support the resulting competition with independent national regulators working within a harmonized regional framework of regulation; and promote investments in new fiber-optic networks and other ultrafast broadband infrastructure (including Long-Term Evolution or LTE) alongside existing technologies. With these measures, plus aggressive strategies for sharing public works infrastructure and subsidies for rural access, MENA can leapfrog its current information and communication bottlenecks.