Community Networks

The Internet can open up a world of opportunity. With half the world’s population unconnected, it’s urgent that we shape a tomorrow that benefits everyone.

Let’s build a digital future that puts people first.

Closing the digital divide is critical and community networks offer a solution. These are “do it yourself” networks built by people for people.

You can promote, donate to, or even build a community network yourself. You can also work with your local community and government to help create change!

This page will get you started.

Hauling the Internet to an Ex-Soviet Outpost High in the Caucasus Mountains”

The New York Times profiled the Tusheti Network Project, a solar-powered wireless network that brought broadband Internet access to Tusheti, a beautiful but very remote region of the Greater Caucasus Mountains in the Republic of Georgia. The work was extra challenging thanks to the difficult terrain and unwieldy nature of loads that had to be brought up by packhorses. Read the Tusheti Case Study to learn more about the project, which aimed to provide a way for the people of Tusheti to build opportunities while preserving their local heritage, traditions, and ways of life.


Assessing Community Networks
More and more people are keen to deploy community networks.  We know from our partners that this takes some time and energy to work with and build the local community. The first ever report on community networks in Sub-Saharan Africa is here:

Policy and Regulatory Considerations
Community networks need policy and regulatory assistance in some countries to get started.  You can check out two of our Policy Briefs here.  They focus on critical issues that help the tech and hard work a reality:

Inforum Courses

Beyond the Net
Many of our chapters are involved in community networks. Learn more about the work they’re doing around the world!

The Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity (DC3)

Wireless Networking In The Developing World (WNDW)

  • WNDW is a free book about designing, implementing, and maintaining low-cost wireless networks.

New Projects We're Launching with Our Partners

The Internet Society is supporting the creation of local community infrastructure to create a self-sustainable community network that connects the villages of El Cuy, Aguada Guzman, and Cerro Policia. Planning, installation, and operation will be discussed, agreed to, and led by the local community.

The Internet Society is supporting the nongovernmental organization Murambinda Works to build a wireless network to connect schools, health centers, and commercial centers.  We have conducted a site survey with the team and are working on plans to deploy with the Murambinda team.

The Internet Society is working in cooperation with the Kyrgyzstan government, the regulator, the ISP community, the ISOC Kyrgyz Chapter, and civil society and academia to identify a community in need. We expect to see deployment plans firm up soon. Stay tuned!

Connecting Indigenous Communities
In November 2017, the Internet Society, together with the Internet Society New Mexico Chapter, the 1st-Mile InstituteNew Mexico Techworks, and the First Mile Connectivity Consortium, organized the inaugural Indigenous Connectivity Summit, a unique event focused on connecting Indigenous communities in North America to the Internet.

This October, the Indigenous Connectivity Summit 2018, an initiative of the Internet Society, University of Alberta North, First Mile Connectivity Consortium, and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, takes place in Edmonton and Inuvik, Canada. For more information, visit event page.

Summit on Community Networks in Africa
Community networks provide a sustainable solution to address the connectivity gaps that exist in urban, remote, and rural areas around the world. In Africa, where these gaps are more evident, a recent survey was able to identify 37 community networks initiatives in 12 African countries, of which 25 are considered active.

The objective of the summit is to promote the creation and growth of Community Networks, increase collaboration between community network operators in the region and to provide an opportunity for them to engage with other stakeholders.

Third Summit on Community Networks in Africa will be held from 2 to 7 September 2018, in Wild Lubanzi Trail Lodge, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Learn more about the event and register now!

The Internet Society’s Africa CN Summit fellowship program provides an opportunity to qualified applicants to attend this summit in person. Applications can be submitted until 25th of July 2018.

Help us switch on the Internet, community by community.

Projects We Continue to Work on with Partners

Here are some of the amazing community networking projects and partners we work with around the world that connect communities. We support them through direct project funding, small fellowships, grants, and joint training events. Our mantra is For the Community, With the Community, By the Community. See the map of the countries we are currently working in or supporting projects in!

APC has been involved in community networks around the world for over a decade, and are key partners.

COMSATS Internet Services
Internet Society has partnered with COMSATS Internet Services to connect a rural community near Multan city, in the Punjab province. The project includes deployment of a wireless network together with training for the community that will enable users to access the benefits of the Internet, providing them with opportunities for social development and inclusion. You can read more about the project here.

Digital Empowerment Foundation
India DEF and the Internet Society created the Wireless Communities Project (W4C) nearly eight years ago. What was once a “back of the napkin” idea turned into real projects in India led by the excellent team of experts and partners at DEF and in partner locations. Check out our APAC team website for more information.

Please also see the new DEF-ISOC report on community networks in India and recommendations to assist their development.

Guerrero, Mexico
See this video – narrated by our Mexican Chapter President, Luis Martinez – about the impact community networks have had in Guerrero, Mexico is a bottom-up, citizenship-driven technological, social, and economic project with the objective of creating a free, open and neutral telecommunications network based on a commons model.

ICTP has worked with us on network training and installation as well as new tools for network development. Marco Zennaro and Ermanno Pietrosemoli recently helped with training, a hands-on lab, and installation for Tunapanda in Nairobi, Kenya in May.

Nepal Wireless Project
Nepal Wireless Project is a non-profit initiative located in the remote rural areas of Nepal.  It was started in 2002 to bring communication services to the villages of the Myagdi district and to find ways to bridge the digital divide between the urban and rural areas of Nepal.

Some projects are in urban under-served areas of developed countries. Read more about this project led by some of our NY Chapter members and also supported through our Beyond the Net Grant Programme.

Rhizomatica began in 2009 as a quest to make alternative telecommunications infrastructure possible for people around the world dealing with oppressive regimes, the threat of natural disaster, or the reality of living in a place deemed too poor or too isolated to cover. The Internet Society supports their efforts in Central and South America to develop networks to connect more people in Mexico, and Central and South America.

SF-Bay Area Chapter’s project,”Bridging California’s Rural/Urban Digital Divide with Mobile Broadband“, is collecting data on mobile broadband performance in rural areas and comparing that performance to what mobile providers are claiming they’re delivering. Data collected will help drive policy to get rural areas more affordable, robust and reliable access, which is crucial for AgTech solutions and for driving the rural economy.

Tusheti, Georgia
The Internet Society partnered with its Georgian Chapter and several Georgian Internet organisations to connect the remote and mountainous region of Tusheti to the Internet. The project was launched in September 2017 opening new opportunities for tourism and cultural preservation, and providing an essential communication channel for healthcare and potential emergency situations. Read the case study for more information.

Zenzeleni is an emerging umbrella body of community telecoms organisations, inspired and led by Zenzeleni Networks Mankosi, the first telecoms co-op. The team at Zenzeleni has come up with community-driven efforts to connect people in the Eastern Cape. They also have shared their expertise at training activities and assisted the Internet Society with a new report called Supporting the Creation and Scalability of Affordable Access Solutions: Understanding Community Networks in Africa.

Community Networks News

Community Networks Workshop at CANTO Annual Conference
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Community Networks 10 August 2018

Community Networks Workshop at CANTO Annual Conference

Globally, significant progress has been made in recent years with respect to Internet access, however, much more needs to...

Building Connectivity Across 27,000 Square Miles
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Community Networks 9 August 2018

Building Connectivity Across 27,000 Square Miles

In November 2017, the Internet Society hosted the inaugural Indigenous Connectivity Summit in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The event brought together...

Community Networks Can Help Solve World’s Problems, Ebook Says
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Community Networks 20 July 2018

Community Networks Can Help Solve World’s Problems, Ebook Says

By bringing broadband to new areas, community networks can help end discrimination, fight climate change, and feed the hungry...

Innovative Approaches to Connecting Indigenous Communities
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Community Networks 17 July 2018

Innovative Approaches to Connecting Indigenous Communities

In November 2017, the Internet Society hosted its first Indigenous Connectivity Summit in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This event...

IETF 102, Day 2: Trust in the IETF
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Community Networks 17 July 2018

IETF 102, Day 2: Trust in the IETF

This week is IETF 102 in Montreal, Canada, and we’re bringing you daily blog posts highlighting the topics of interest...

Meeting Europe’s Connectivity Challenge: The Role for Community Networks
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Community Networks 3 July 2018

Meeting Europe’s Connectivity Challenge: The Role for Community Networks

While Europe tops many charts in terms of Internet connectivity in global comparison, a number of challenges still persist....

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