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Growing the Internet 11 October 2017

New policies needed to close the digital divide, says Internet Society  

New paper highlights crucial role of Community Networks in connecting the unconnected

Buenos Aires, Argentina–11 October, 2017–  The Internet Society (ISOC), a global non-profit dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet, has today launched a new paper outlining policy initiatives that government, the private sector, and local actors can take to expand Internet access to underserved communities and remote areas.

In support of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and with half of the world’s population still unconnected, the paper outlines the need for innovative approaches in policies to connect those in the hardest to reach places on the planet.  It draws attention to Community Networks as a key example of new ways to close connectivity gaps and focuses on the need for new thinking on policies and regulations that support innovative ways to connect people.

Community Networks are built, managed and used by local communities. They offer a viable solution for affordable access in areas that traditional networks do not reach, or a backup and redundancy solution in instances where traditional networks may fail or are insufficient.

The Internet Society is urging the 100+ Ministers attending the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) in Buenos Aires 9-20 October to implement policies on infrastructure and digital skills that enable connectivity for thousands of communities around the world.

“Enabling and supporting communities to actually connect themselves is a new way of thinking,” explained Raul Echeberría, Vice President of Global Engagement for the Internet Society.  “Policy makers and regulators should recognize that connectivity can be instigated from a village or a town and that they can help with innovative licensing and access to spectrum.”

Access to affordable and available spectrum is critical for Community Networks and policy makers can play a key role in ensuring adequate access to it. The report examines the various ways that Community Networks can gain access to spectrum, including the use of unlicensed spectrum, sharing licensed spectrum, and innovative licensing.  Network operators also play a key role in helping Community Networks. The report outlines recommendations for operators which include:  access to backhaul infrastructure at fair rates, equipment and training partnerships, and the sharing of infrastructure as well as spectrum.

“For people to reap the social and economic benefits the Internet can bring, policy makers must ensure that adequate spectrum is available for community networks, citizens, and other groups seeking to develop networks and provide access to ICTs. Community Networks are a key way to help us achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, however governments must work with the private sector to promote local connectivity,” added Echeberría.

The cost to deploy Community Networks can be low. Often, the technology required to build and maintain the network is as simple as a wireless router. The networks can range from WiFi-only to mesh networks and mobile networks that provide voice and SMS services.  While they usually serve communities under 3,000 people, some serve more than 50,000 users.

To read the Internet Society report entitled “Spectrum Approaches for Community Networks” please visit: https://www.internetsociety.org/policybriefs/spectrum. The policy brief is also available in Spanish and French.

To learn more about Community Networks:  https://www.internetsociety.org/issues/community-networks/.

About the Internet Society

Founded by Internet pioneers, the Internet Society (ISOC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet. Working through a global community of chapters and members, the Internet Society collaborates with a broad range of groups to promote the technologies that keep the Internet safe and secure, and advocates for policies that enable universal access. The Internet Society is also the organizational home of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Media Contact:
Allesandra deSantillana
Internet Society
[email protected]

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