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The Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity (DC3) session gathered authors of the book ‘Community Networks: the Internet by the People for the People,’ which is the Official 2017 Outcome of the DC3. In the session they discussed the results of their research and analszed a series of case studies and proposals about concrete policies that would promote community networking.
The moderator of the session, Mr Luca Belli, from the Center for Technology and Society at FGV, gave the floor to the first speaker, Ms Kathy Brown, President and CEO of Internet Society (ISOC). In her speech, Kathy emphasised the difficulty for commercial carriers to access the community and how big the role of the DC is in enabling this process. She mentioned three ways in which this process is conducted: first, capacity building in order to empower the community to use technology; second, getting technology to work for the community; and third, the level of policy that should enable all of this.
Mr Jan Dröge, Director of the EU Commission Broadband Competence Offices Support Facility, shed the light on the huge gap that is still present between the rural and urban populations, in regards to access to Internet. He mentioned that there are many obstacles that contribute to this situation, from financial to regulatory, etc. But in spite of these obstacles, the EU is trying to create a network for the exchange of best practices, and to work with different initiatives on the global level, to bring them to the local level, and finally get them closer to end users.
Belli gave a brief reflection on the right to self-determination in the connected networks that he elaborates on in thee book. Mr Carlos Rey-Moreno, Association for Progressive Communications (APC), followed by reminding us that sustainable development and communication are recognised in the millennium development goals. He pointed that in his contribution to the book, he conducted research on 30 different communities in Africa, analysing community networks and local access networks as an alternative paradigm to provide connectivity in rural areas. Moreover, he emphasised the importance of better understanding different initiatives that tackle various problems in these communities.
In his chapter on Mexico, Mr Peter Bloom, Rhizomatica, spoke about creating the first and largest cellular deployment. He analysed the importance of taking into account what tools we have and how we can use them to enhance connectivity. Hence, he concluded that technology needs to be adaptive and inexpensive, and that we need to work with the devices that people have.
Mr Michel Oghia, Independent consultant, introduced a topic that is not widely discussed, ‘sustainable access’, as the ability of any user to connect to the Internet and stay connected over time. From his point of view connected networks are essential for exercising sustainable access. As one of the answers to the question of suitability, he pointed to encouraging universal service funds that should support future development, not just of the Internet and infrastructure, but also of energy, as one of paramount factors of modern society.
Ms Sarbani Belur, Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, spoke about a project that her institute conducted on the utilisation of spectrum. They discovered that a great part of spectrum is not being used, hence they decided to initiate using this part of spectrum in villages in India, by bringing connectivity. The project faced many difficulties with operators who do not the l.have economic motivation to invest in rural areas. This is why in this process, public-private initiatives, and community initiatives are very important in order to overcome these difficulties.
Mr Bruno Vianna, Coolab, briefly shed light on his experience in Brazil, by pointing out that every network is a story for itself. He gave a great example on how creating community networks can give opportunities to young people, that would otherwise not be available to them.
In the example of Brazil, but from regulatory perspective, Ms Nathalia Foditsch, American University, elaborated some regulatory issues. Moreover, through the example of tragic personal events, she pointed out the importance of connectivity in emergency situations and concluded that community networks are not only about connectivity but also about resilience.
In the end Mr Luis Martinez, ISOC Mexico, spoke about the proposal for creating a new Community Networks map, and invited all interested parties to contribute to this project.
By Adriana Minovic