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Over the years of research and fieldwork, the Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity (DC3) has not only proved that Community Networks (CNs) are showing results in expanding connectivity, but that now they also inform policy-making processes on connectivity issues. These efforts resulted in the publication ‘2019 Annual Outcome’, a working document and its main topic: Building Community Networks Policies: A Collaborative Governance towards Enabling Frameworks.
The promotion and standardisation of solutions for universal Internet access, with an emphasis on free access, spread, and reception of information, knowledge, and education in the Americas was the main focus of Mr Edison Lanza (Organization of American States Rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression). The issue is especially significant for the indigenous and communities lacking Internet access, and its solution depends on much-needed co-operation among the experts in the field of community networks.
Panellists from civil society organisations, Mr Carlos Baca (Rhizomatica), Mr Adam Burns (Free2Air), Mr Carlos Rey-Moreno (APC), and Internet Sans Frontières, all emphasises the necessity for raising awareness about the importance of community connectivity, knowledge sharing, and capacity building not only among the end-users who build and maintain their own Internet connectivity capacities, but also among the policymakers and regulators who can facilitate further development of community connectivity. Better policies in this field should be developed and implemented based on the input from the unconnected communities (be it domestic, indigenous, displaced like refugees, sparsely populated, low-income, remote, etc.) that know best what their needs and problems are, and how to resolve them.
Spectrum access and new types of licensing are the main topics in the UK. With an increased demand for wider Wi-Fi coverage, especially in remote and rural areas, different stakeholders and sectors joined their forces to bring the benefits of technology to various fields and unconnected communities and areas. Two new ways of shared connectivity have been introduced by the regulators: one designed for in-door and urban areas, based on low and medium power solutions license, and the other designed for industries based on high power solutions license. The fact that these licences are not exclusive and their prices and duration of usage negotiable, enables different sorts of deployment and delivering connectivity by third parties as well, explained Ms Cristina Data (Ofcom).
Ms Jane Coffin (Internet Society) shared examples of good practices in multiples areas: community building, deployment and infrastructure instalment in remote areas, and funding of similar initiatives. Such activities allowed these areas to embark on a track to economic recovery, encouraging people to remain or return there. When it comes to policy-making, the Internet Society is supporting innovative models like spectrum sharing solutions for connectivity, because due to the lack of infrastructure in remote areas, there is a gap between providing licences and affordable Internet connectivity service, a consequence of not so good business models of Internet providers. One of the aims is to make connectivity sustainability a policy question to be discussed among regulators.
The main topic of all speakers was the problem of sharing spectrum and licences. Suggestions to the regulators are that the private and public infrastructure should be allowed to have equal access to the connectivity spectrum. The licensing procedures should be simplified, if not discarded because the targeted audience is often not educated enough to fill in the needed forms. More effective ways to enable small communities to access the Internet should be developed.
By Dragana Markovski