>> LUCA BELLI: Good morning, to everyone.
>> Good afternoon.
>> LUCA BELLI: Good afternoon. Sorry, to everyone. Welcome to this workshop on Community Connectivity: Empowering the Unconnected.
The main issue that we are going to analyze that afternoon is community connectivity or better the various facets of community connectivity. We will analyze a lot of case studies and histories and stories of people that are building Community Networks, that are trying to empower local communities, and it is very important the empowerment element here for the workshop of today. We already spent a good hour and a half this morning at the meeting Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity trying to define what are the core elements of Community Networks so that we're all on the same page, we all have an understanding of what we mean by Community Networks, and if you don't -- if you were not this morning at the event, I would suggest that you check our Declaration on Community Connectivity, which is one of our annual outcomes, and also the report on Community Connectivity that we have released this morning.
It's also -- unfortunately, all the copies have been taken this morning, so you can find it online. It's freely available at internet-governance.fgv.br, and -- well, the important point of the meeting of that afternoon is to try to have -- to analyze a different paradigm, not to try to connect the unconnected but try to let the unconnected connect themselves, let them build their own connectivity, do not be the victim or the recipient of other people's strategy but being the protagonist of their connectivity. We have an amazing set of panelists this afternoon. I will let Raoul moderate the session, and please, go ahead, Raoul, with the moderation.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Yep. My name is Raoul Plommer. I work for Electronic Frontier Finland, and I would just like our members of the group of the Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity to introduce themselves, and maybe we can start here on the left.
>> NICOLAS ECHANIZ: Hi, I'm Nico Echaniz from Argentina.
>> RUTH OROZCO: Hi. I am Ruth Orozco (Speaking non-English language).
>> LEANDRO NAVARRO: (Speaking non-English language)
>> JAY: Hi. My name is Jay from South Africa. I'm working for the (Inaudible)
>> JOHN DADA: My name is John Dada from the Fantsuam Foundation, Nigeria.
>> RITU SRIVASTAVA: My name is Ritu. I'm working with the Digital Empowerment Foundation in India.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Any more members of the Dynamic Coalition?
>> MAHABIR PUN: Yes. Hi, my name is Mahabir Pun. I am from Nepal, and I am with Nepal Wireless.
>> MAUREEN: My name is Maureen. I'm from Venezuela.
>> OSAMA MANZAR: Hi, I'm Osama Manzar from Digital Empowerment Foundation, India.
>> MARCELO SALDANHA: I'm from -- my name is Marcelo from Institute Brazil and Rio de Janeiro Brazil.
>> LAURA TRESCA: I'm Laura from Article 19, Brazil.
>> LUIS MARTINEZ: Hi. My name is Luis. Ola. I'm coming from the university, and ISOC Mexico.
>> (Inaudible) Catalunya.
>> BOB FRANKSTON: Okay. I'm Bob Frankston from the U.S. doing various projects.
>> JANE COFFIN: Jane Coffin from the Internet Society.
>> MIKE JENSEN: Mike Jensen, Association for Progressive Communications.
>> CARLOS REY-MORENO: Carlos Rey-Moreno, South Africa.
>> LUCA BELLI: I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Luca Belli. I work for the Center for Technology and Society at Fundacao Getulio Vargas, Rio de Janeiro.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Do we have anyone else working with Community Networks? It's a chance to let us know. Please have a mic and tell us what project are you dealing with?
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: I'm from Georgia working for a development fund from ISOC.
>> PETER BLOOM: Good afternoon, Peter Bloom from Rhizomatica.
>> PAUL: I'm Paul from the institute, Rio di Janeiro, Brazil.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Okay. We'll now move on to speakers. It's very nice to see such a wide diversity here from all over the -- people from all over the world. That's really how Community Networks will build themselves.
And now I'd like to move to the speakers, and we'll start with John Dada.
>> JOHN DADA: Thank you very much. I have a very short story just to illustrate my first encounter with the regulator in Nigeria. About 12 years ago, I had started a wireless network, and we were providing basic literacy training right up to competent networking skills, and we had a VSAT -- we have a tower for communication, and on this day, the regulator and his team visited, which we are in the middle of nowhere, actually, but they had heard about what we were doing, and we had a tower, we had a VSAT, and their concern was I was operating illegally because I didn't have a license.
Frankly, I didn't know about a license, so I did ask them, by the way, how much is this license? And they gave me the same price as one of the big telecos in the capital city, about 5,000 U.S. dollars. I took a deep breath, and I said, well, can I just take you around the organization and show you what we're doing, so I did.
I took them to one of the classes where the students were learning, I took them to some of the women who had access to our facility, and I said, can you tell me any of this that can afford because of that license? And they did agree that nobody there could afford it.
Well, to cut a long story short, by the time they were leaving, they introduced me to the USP, the Universal Service Provision fund, which I had never heard of, and I was given a five-year license to operate.
So for me it was an interesting encounter, which also demonstrates what community networks do. Sometimes we operate in ignorance of the law, or sometimes we operate ahead of the regulation, the regulation hasn't caught up with us yet, but that can't stop us from the work we need to do.
I have a slide that I'd like to show. Can I see my slide there, please? The slide is a picture I took in one of the sessions here today, and I'm juxtaposing it with a slide of my community to illustrate the kind of mental image I'm carrying in my head while I'm in this strange home. Any luck?
Well, the thing about the -- for me the Community Network is its flexibility and relevance. Unless your Community Network is meeting an immediate need of your community, you might as well just close shop. I live in a community, at the moment we are in the harvest season, and it's all manual harvest. No, it's not coming up?
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Yeah, we don't have the photo there.
>> JOHN DADA: Well, it's there.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: What's the name of the picture?
>> JOHN DADA: Community Network. Sorry.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: We have found the picture.
>> JOHN DADA: Can we see them? Yeah. So for me, a Community Network needs to be relevant, it needs to be dynamic, it needs to be flexible, and it needs to meet immediate needs. The needs in my community at the moment is one about harvest and then the other is about refugees. These are not issues that are of immediate relevance to the regulator, but this is a matter of life or death in my community, so as a result of some sectarian crisis, there's been an influx of refugees in my community, and schools have been closed for some time. My concern has been the closure of schools, the fate of children and teachers. Teachers have lost out in terms of knowledge and skills, updates; children have lost hours of teaching.
So I got in touch with some people, and they were willing to give me curriculum on continuing professional development for teachers. I needed a means of disseminating this information from a local server, and the Community Network came handy.
There was the issue of girl children in these refugee positions that need immediate support and protection and needed a Community Network to attack -- to address that issue, so for me, the network has been dynamic. It looks -- it meets an immediate need; therefore, it is owned by the community.
I'll tell you another short story. The VSAT, there was some problems with it at one point, and I was getting frustrated with maintaining the VSAT, and I said I was going to improve it, and the community came by and said, John, we would rather you approve yourself, but that VSAT belongs to us, and I thought my job was done, so they had taken ownership, so I could rest as far as I was concerned.
For me, the Community Network ownership is important. Now you can see those women -- that's a picture of my head at the moment. That's what's going on in my community.
Now, how I show that the regulator -- since the need of this community -- because that is the local economy, that's the one that's keeping us going, the women farmers. How do I show that the Community Network meets their needs while I'm looking over my shoulder at whatever the regulator comes to say. When he comes, we'll have a chance again as usual. Thank you.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you, John. Next up is Ritu from India.
>> RITU SRIVASTAVA: So I think that when we started Community Network in India, it's like back in 2010 or so, in 2010. The story was, like, we were working in a community and we started -- we -- we were not having any connectivity. There was a lack of connectivity and the people were unable to go to someplace -- access points were missing. There was no public infrastructure available as well to the people, so the stories that -- back in 2010 when we started the Community Network in the multiple locations, where it's 70-person population is in the communities. They belong to -- they are Muslim, they are underprivileged one, and they were unable to access any sort of access to information.
The problem -- when the -- we were -- we -- it was always the information lack -- lack of information or it was the online process as well. If we provide the information and accessible information and equitable access information, that they will be able to access certain kind of health services, they would be able to access whatever daily they required in their daily lives.
So in one Community Network when we were -- when we started as well is we are using a very frugal model. We have it -- the model which we are using is also the innovative model that we started building, and sometimes we did illegal activities, we build up -- it was hard to put that as well, which is not legal in India, and we did not know that it's illegal. We were, like, okay, now if it's a build-up and its built up by some frugal matters which were lying on the ground or something, like I can -- I think Osama can tell much better about that, those stories as well when we were building those towers, but idea was that the community wanted to have that tower and to build that tower for their own purpose and to make themselves that -- be connected by the Internet as well.
As well, the most important factor was when we were trying to build up those kind of Community Networks. The community was always -- it was -- they were proactive to adopt that technology, not we were proactive to get them as well. At the same time, we were proactive, but they were more proactive that, okay, we want the owners of that particular thing and we want -- we do not see that -- we really need Internet for the Internet purpose, we need some form of a communication to communicate, so in some of our locations, we -- right now we have 150 centers and we have 150 across the country as well, and some of the centers and some of the locations where we are providing the Community Networks is like one village -- group of village country members are approaching another group of community village members, and there's nothing else. They are just using as a source of information to share their knowledge and productivity, day-to-day life activity as well. It's more important for them to share their own daily life of activity as well.
We are using -- technologywise we are using a 2.4 gigahertz and 5 gigahertz of a bandwidth spectrum, and simple point-to-point -- P2P technology as a line of sight. Most of the time what we're trying to build up a network tower, we tried not to build a tower as well. We tried to figure out which is the tallest building in that particular locality.
There are some regulations which we end up having it, like, we -- as in the morning, Osama was mentioning there is a limited number of existing government -- most of the tallest buildings and government buildings are opened by government. Then you have restrictions of government regulations. You need to deal with the local bureaucratic system and so on and so forth, but the good point about it is that when the community itself starts taking the owners of that particular thing, it really starts establishing that this is not belong to us, this is belong to them and this is something that they really want to have it in their own capacity as well.
Local content and the content which they're producing is more important for them than what they're accessing from the outside at times. What we have seen, it's more -- in cases like they're they are -- what they're producing has to go outside and what they want to consume is also from outside of the world because then they want to explore the new world as well.
So YouTube is one of the major mediums that they would like to explore, Internet and the accessing through the video conferencing is one of the major things that they want to access a certain kind of things. Watching movies and films on a broadcasting way. This is the thing that they want to access in their daily life, which they don't get it, actually.
So community -- what our Community Networks is -- most importantly is built up by community and for the community instead of like having owners of very small organizations. Regulators, the challenge -- good part is that regulators are not (Inaudible) the villages as well. They hesitate. There's no market in that. Where is the market lying? Is -- the market lies in the urban city. They are not willing to go as well, but when any small organization, when any organization like us, when we try to build up and we just give them some small investment, we do it, it's really good to see that they need to take the owners and ready to provide the facility with the human resource. Learning and capacity is the one that they really want to learn how this model works out, and -- but, yes, we need to be there as well for troubleshooting for a major operation purpose as well, but end of the day it goes to the community and they are taking the owners of it as well.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you, Ritu. The next in line is Tony.
>> TONY: Thank you. My name is Tony. I come from Uganda. I work for an organization called BOSCO. BOSCO is an organization for Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach. BOSCO Uganda started its operation way back when Uganda was in the war with the Army. We came up with an idea of reaching out to communities who are isolated in the desert that comes being protected by the armed forces and then rebels were attacking people. Many children were being abducted. Houses were being bombed.
We came up with a feeling that how can we make these people access information? Access to information is limited to only armed forces because they were using handsets, the radio calls, but at certain point, radio calls became risky for government itself and then for the security within the camps.
We decided to put pilot test by putting voice over Internet to about six internally displaced participants where we found that information was being shared. We decided to put one computer internally displaced person comes.
Out of that, many people were able to sit on computers, share information, learn what is happening on a daily basis. That came to pass.
When our comms were congested, we realized that we needed to develop another strategy to reach out to communities who were isolated. Again, not internally intercoms but the back to the original homes, so when we went back with another strategy of mapping out the different communities who are there, so mapping out the communities became a challenge because you need to look for an organized group, send out information, try to assess the group, coming out with a group became also a problem, but we realize that following up the strategy that we did intercoms, we went down to local government authorities, we assessed different groups, community groups, who were established in the community, and we decided to send community ICT centers deep to rural communities, based on BOSCO using battery and solar. We didn't realize much of the difficulties in sending out those kind of information, since our community are off grid, totally almost 80% of the rural community in the places where I come from, they're off grid, so the battery and solar project helped them a lot to actually see that the information in the villages are able to be accessed.
The only limitation that BOSCO Uganda had is that access to information sometimes is only limited to a few individuals who can be able to read and write. Looking at the literacy level of where my people are, I know many of them are now able to do so. What we did as BOSCO, we came up with an idea of translating the local language, which are uploaded into the computer system, so we trained them using the local language, computer language translated into the local language. We used training manuals to send out information.
Many people are getting -- got interested because they're able to read computers, use computer using their local language, and they're able to sit on computers, but before that, many people looked at computers as something that is coming to take away their culture, so as BOSCO, we decided to brand our slogans that connecting people and preserving culture, and that slogan stood up, something that made BOSCO up to now for ten years almost on their own.
We have actually expanded sending out Internet to rural communities for 32 computer centers, 32 computer centers comprised of a minimum of five computers for each of the use group, and in those computer centers, we provide basic computer training, the basic web or applications, and then we provide the basic Internet access, bruising, and others that help the local people who don't have that level of education to get interested to learn computers.
And, again, what we did was to integrate entrepreneurial training onto our computer centers, and then that actually encourages including young and adult people to join computer centers.
The only challenge that we have as a limitation being a non-for-profit entity is the restriction on the licensing aspect. You don't need to provide Internet that you gain at the end of the day, we're not commercial at the end of the day, but we are trying to build our community capacity to come up with a sustainable -- sustainability model, sustainability model in the sense that each of the community centers is supposed to come up with their own strategy. If you are ever able to raise revenue from the local users, it's well and good, it will help. Once BOSCO is not there, you are able to run your own centers, so that's how we're trying to build on the sustainability model for our ICT center, but the challenge still lies in the policies that govern the non-for-profit entities to operate within those contexts. Thank you.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you, Tony.
And next up is Lee Hibbard.
>> LEE HIBBARD: Okay. Thank you very much. Hello, everybody. My name is Lee Hibbard, from the Council of Europe, which is a human rights body based in France. I don't know whether you've heard of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court on Human Rights, but that's where it's all based. I'm coming from this from a different angle, a very simple angle, not a technical angle, which is different, but I think it's very important. I have one real message, which is we're here, you know, under the overarching theme of enabling inclusive and sustainable growth, inclusive and sustainable. That resonates with Community Network straight away.
We hear about connecting the unconnected and empowering them, and I hear in this room and in previous workshops they're -- really at the base we're looking to get access to people to make informed choices, empowerment through real access to information, I mean information which is probably accurate and truthful and quality, so underlying many of the technical issues is the importance of literacy and the need to ensure that we have critical literacy to move forward.
That's what I take away immediately, but connecting the next billions, connecting the developing countries in particular, and when we talk about net neutrality, when we talk about free basics, we're talking about access to information.
And from where I come from and from my simple human rights standpoint, access to information, Community Networks, it's a nascent area, and it unlocks the potential for the exercise of the freedoms we all have under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so we talk about a constitutional right to access the Internet. I think as part of that discussion, we're not there yet. As part of that discussion, we're talking about a corollary linked to that is an access to maybe Community Networks.
You know, can states really bridge the gaps, can they cover all the people in the population. If it becomes that fundamental, for so many things like freedom of expression, the right to be informed, to receive and impart information, there's a need for states to make best efforts to connect those people in the communities which matter.
So how do they fill that gap? So maybe we're filling the gap here. Maybe this is part of filling the gap. Maybe we need to talk with states' representatives too to fill that gap, and so I see this as a nascent area also from my perspective, from a human rights perspective. And as we move forward and as the discussion grows, I think we need to keep in mind the need for safeguards, keep in mind on the other side of the technical discussion, we really are talking about fundamental human rights to so many things, which is in keeping with, you know, connecting the next billion, the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, et cetera.
I know it's a more abstract discussion that I'm leading to, but it's the same thing as Network Neutrality, and Network Neutrality was a technical discussion in 2010. Luca and I organized an event in France on Network Neutrality before many other actors, and that led to a baseline standard which was adopted in 2010 and then another one, a policy agreed by many countries in 2000 -- which date, Luca?
>> LUCA BELLI: '16.
>> LEE HIBBARD: -- in 2016. I'm going to stop talking, but one last thing is this year on the 27th of June, in the United Nations, there was a Human Rights Council meeting which they adopted a resolution on the protection and promotion of human rights on the Internet.
It's very basic, but it sets the minimum bar for what we understand about, I think, Community Networks. Global open nature of the Internet, facilitating access to the Internet, expanding access to Internet, and, you know, making -- requesting states to make efforts to bridge the different divides, so that means bridging the gender divide, that means bridging divides between those with impairments, disabilities, that means condemning disruptions of access, and that means calling for states to take national action, public policy to ensure that we have universal access. Now, universal access is the key. I think you have the framework already in going forward with the Community Networks to say that actually this is an integral part of that, and it's an integral part of states' best efforts to connect the unconnected, and below that, there's a need for a strong push for information about Community Networks, about the human rights aspects, and about critical thinking and choice, and I will stop there. Thank you.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you Lee. Next we'll open the floor for some questions and answers. Anybody can have the floor, and we'll start from there.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you very much. This is, for me, a fascinating topic. I'm with the World Economic Forum, and we have this project on Internet for all, so I understand fully the tension with regulators, and they don't understand and they need to be involved. What is the tension faced with the private sector operators and how has that worked? I'm just curious on how that plays out.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Okay. Does somebody want to answer that?
>> CARLOS REY-MORENO: I think the tension lies on the difference that we were trying to highlight by the private sector is providing connectivity, period; the Community Networks are giving sovereign agency power in the communities and allowing them to develop -- to develop the infrastructure and the content that they want to provide to themselves, and that goes -- has developmental outcomes that go beyond the -- the private sector itself, and at the same time, it's also, as well, trying to regain some of the very first concepts of the Internet development of creating the network from the bottom up rather than from the top down. Thank you. (That was a panelist)
>> LUCA BELLI: If I could provide a comment. I think what is clear from the report we released this morning, and it is very clear to all the participants of the IGF is there are still four billion people that are unconnected, right? is the ones who have been connected are through private led strategies, public investment, but those strategies have a limit, and if four billion people are not connected yet, well, I think the limit is quite evident, so I -- no one here is a revolutionary trying to deny that private sector is an important key role, but besides that, what we are trying to do here is to build a different model that could be complementary. It does not have to be a substitute, a competitor, but could be a complement to what already exists, but it has to have limits, and there are four billion people that can witness that there are limits.
Osama and -- sorry.
>> OSAMA MANZAR: Alex, how are you? A couple of, you know, experience with the regulators as well as private sector in India, the prospective that we have understood is that when you go to do Community Networking, it's obviously, as Lucas had that -- you know, it's the need of the ground that, you know, private sector hasn't reached to them, but what is very interesting to note is that private sector is unable to understand the necessity and the need of the ground realities and they are only looking at it from the financial perspective. As the time that is required to look at the ROI is much longer and the social investment that is required to get into a ground is very high, and that doesn't really fit into their esteem of economic plan.
Beside that, they also do not understand and perhaps it is a restrictive way, is that when the back haul is provided, and most of the time it's the back haul that's provided by the private sectors, the telecos, or the governmental telecos, the back line is supposed to be on the tariff card as available, but if you go and get them, it's not available. You know, there is a restrictive practice of how not to allow anybody else to go retail, but, you know, also do not invest in that area to go deep into the ground, so these are, you know, a couple of areas that we have experienced; however, if you see the city-based Community Network, which is actually not Community Network but is a privately owned going into the remote areas or the slum areas, their the back haul is very easily provided because there is a very high population concentration in the urban areas and in a very remote -- in a slum area also, you get a very high number of population, so the -- so the business practices of the private-sector telecos is not really healthy working with a community-based organization or those kind of organization, and policy is also not conducive. These are the two major outcomes that we have seen in India.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you. It was Roger, Roger's turn.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah. Thank you. I would like to comment that also for us Community Network developers, we tend to look at the action of the government as contrary to our purpose, but in a point of view -- and I have the example of the Mexican government. Anyone and specifically on the comment of Mr. Dada is that we are in our legislation we have differentiated the fees you have to pay for a license. Yes, we have a commercial license and we have what we use, a community use license, so that way for every fee you have to pay, you only pay half the price of the -- what are the duties to pay, and in the case of the license, it's free for community management or for Community Network, sorry, so also we need -- and we need to look into those efforts and to tell our governments that we should have differentiated tariff structure. Thank you.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you. The next one is was Luis.
>> LUCA BELLI: Roger.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Roger.
>> ROGER BAIG: Private sector is very broad, from self-employed people to big transnationals, so it depends, and also geographically diverse, so usually we refer to the big telecos, but there's a lot of small companies. Small companies, it's -- on the other hand, Community Networks have been kept out of the general debate for so long. Now it's -- it's being integrated into the debate, and to merge these aspects, many small companies in just a matter of time to explain them what we are, what we do, for them, it's the only opportunity to survive in a world, in an industry that is concentrating more and more. We see this every day at home. These micro WISPS -- the micro wireless ISP, in our country fiber is being deployed, so in the next ten years fiber will be everywhere. In this scenario, micro ISP are not viable anymore, so what we're telling them is join us, we are also deploying fiber because we are integrating demand, so we have also to play the fiber game, and the only option you have, probably, is to join our -- our team.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you, Roger. Next up was Ritu.
>> RITU SRIVASTAVA: I think that Osama was right when we were facing a lot of challenges when we are facing the regulatory -- the regulator challenges are already there, but the importance of a Community Network lies at the user base requirement, which we understand pretty well. Regulators often have a set tariff plans which is like set tariff plans which a user cannot afford at that time. Sometimes they cannot understand their tariff plans because if you take this plan, you need to take this plan, you need to take this plan, and that goes beyond it as well, so these networks also provide the user required what is -- how much structure do they need for data and how much requirement they really needed, so you need for one hour, they need for two hours, and how much do they need for a week, so it also depends on the community requirement, how -- what the structure is as well, so instead of going for a set tariff plans and data plans, instead of breaking them down into that level.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thanks for that. It was the guy with the tie there.
>> BERIN SZOKA: Berin Szoka, TechFreedom. I just joined the mailing list, so I'm new to this, so I just wanted to share my perspective. I'm sorry.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Go ahead.
>> BERIN SZOKA: Okay. Forgive me. So we are a Civil Society group, and we work a lot on this very topic, and I'd like to suggest that I think there's a false dichotomy that drives a lot of these debates as between the private sector and the public sector. I'm all for doing as much as we can to enable private companies, but I think it's -- it doesn't follow to say that the status quo isn't good enough, and, therefore, we should have government built or Community Networks, depending on what that term means, so let me suggest that every community in the world, with some level of infrastructure, already has a Community Network, which is the public roads, the public rights-of-way, the land that is owned by the public, by the taxpayers. That is a network. That is essentially the dumbest possible part of a broadband network because if you're going to deploy, you need to use that network, so I would just like to suggest that as we think about this we start by thinking about how we can engage private capital and private enterprise in public-private partnerships because the reality is that any private broadband network is actually a partnership with the government. They're going to use streets, rights-of-way, poles, and the question is always here how can we get the biggest bang for the buck; that is to say, the most investment to do the most good for the most people? And from my perspective, I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge that there are places in the world. I'm from New Mexico, which is a very rural state, and it may be that on Indian reservations in the United States that you're not going to get private deployment, and I recognize that that may be true in many places around the world, but there are also lots of places, and I would suggest most places, where if you had smart policies that cut fees so that this gentleman didn't have to pay $5,000 in Nigeria or that the governments didn't charge exorbitant monopoly rates for using rights-of-way, if you could get governments out of the way, and if you could focus on smart infrastructure policies, like deploying conduits, making sure that the poles are fiber ready, making sure that when cities install street lamps that those are capable of interfacing with fiber, that they can carry 5G antennas, if you could do those sort of things, you could get more private deployment.
I would suggest all of those things are in a sense Community Networks even if the fiber and the electronics are not owned by some sort of co-op. You could have private enterprise that is actually deploying these smart parts of the network where the government is deploying the least that it needs to, and that's going to depend on the circumstances.
So this is a long way of saying I think we need to be flexible and not bind ourself to some sort of ideological preference for one role for the private sector or the public sector and the goal should be to get maximum results, so I hope that we're open to exploring those and not starting from the assumption that all elements of the network have to be owned by either the government or some sort of community cooperative.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you. I don't think we've tied ourselves into anything yet. It's a fair comment. In the back.
>> LAURA TRESCA: I'm Laura from Brazil. I want to comment what Luca said about the limits of business model to connect people and the guy who talked about the Mexican legal framework because we are writing how to guide -- how to set up and legalize Community Network, and we are writing this guide for six months more or less. We are writing with partners that are here. And it was very difficult for us to find consensus, to achieve consensus what is the best legal path to legalize Community Networks, and I think the -- the beginning of the problem is that all the legal framework was designed for a business model, it wasn't designed for Community Networks, and it's not suitable for our proposals.
And I think we have a lot of work with community wages, and we believe that anything -- in our country in Brazil, the community wages are very criminalized. Any kind of excuses are given to limit community wages, so we are very worried about this, to have a suitable legal framework because we believe that it will happen the same with the Community Networks, and we need to legalize them to -- not to have a problem of criminalization of these people of these communities. That's it.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you. Next one up is the guy from Georgia.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Just a few topics about our project. It is related with a special place. Okay? Is it okay? Yeah. This project is related with our local society, talking about a Georgian project, some kind of -- the open networks. It's local society members.
Next topic, this is funded with ISOC, and also there are involved some local ISOC chapter and some kind of social responsibility of local society to have somehow this place.
And the next topic about regulation of a country, we don't have any restrictions about licensing, et cetera, you just need authorization and about the radio wave, radio frequency. It's also free, and in these special areas, frequencies are enough for everything to put 4 and 5 megahertz, and it will be useful in this project.
It will be done for July, and it will be financially -- the local community members are users of this network. That's why they're helping with resources. That's all. Thank you.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you. Next one is Maureen.
>> MAUREEN: Thank you. Yeah. I was thinking there are some initiatives -- most of these initiatives are about Community Networks. I mean, bringing the network from -- for the people, from the people, you know. They are the owners, but we do have to remember as well, we have a goal. We have a goal by 2020, and if I have the number right, we have to connect, like, three more billions, and it's not going to be easy just with Community Networks. It's not going to be easy only with private sector because we have -- the millions are connected right now, just following one line. I think we need to strengthen all different tactics that we have.
And when we have most of the people connected, then we can use it the other way around and teach them to build Community Networks and to abandon maybe a private sector and continue on building the Internet, but we need to have them connected. We set a goal, and we need to work very hard to manage that goal to make it true by 2020, I believe.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you. We're starting to run out of time, so we'll just have two more. There's one guy in the back. Yes, you. And then Nico, and then we move on to the next segment, and there will be more questions and answers at the end of that segment.
>> JORGE VARGAS: Hello, everyone. My name is Jorge Vargas, and I work for the Wikimedia Foundation. We have a mission of wanting to have a world that can access knowledge and information, freely licensed knowledge and information and that is in our project. We're currently very interested in this topic of Community Networks because organically we've been noticing how there are different cases where locally the -- these networks or these communities want to incorporate or add Wikipedia content in a local way.
Also, it's been interesting to see how they've taken the opportunity of having Wikipedia offline and sometimes online to be able to contribute back through knowledge, contribute information that they want to share, but at the same time, it's just very -- it's very small efforts that we are identifying, and in our strategy coming up, we really want to focus on pushing this. So I guess from me it's more of a question from the people here in the room that come from these different places of the world with these different Community Networks, is there any relevance for you all of having Wikipedia or Wikimedia projects as something that can be related, incorporated, or in some sort of way articulated with what you're working on?
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you. One more comment from Nico.
>> NICOLAS ECHANIZ: I will make it very short. I just wanted to emphasize that at least many of us in this Dynamic Coalition believe this dichotomy of private vs. Community Networks is not the one we should focus on. Here in the IGF, we are used to being divided vertically by stakeholders, so it's the same. The interest of maybe Verizon or AT&T, it should be like the same interest of a small wireless ISP, one that is not true, and what we believe is interesting and actually we need to do this. We need to connect the interest of small private sector, of medium and small providers with the interest of Community Networks, so we need to build this stakeholder region instead of this stakeholder region. I want us to stress this.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you. We'll have a -- three more speakers now, and I'm hoping you could keep it to about four minutes each, and we'll move on to Roger.
>> ROGER BAIG: Thank you. So let me introduce myself. I'm Roger. I'm coming from the guifi.net community. Just some small data about this community. We started Wi-Fi about 13, 14 years ago. Currently we are doing fiber, and we estimate the total investment above 10 million euros already. This is not to show you how big we are and how nice we are, just to give an idea of how this kind of scale and we're convinced this kind of scale much more.
And just -- we have about 20 ISP operating inside the network. This means more than 100 job positions created, and, well, this is about empowering the unconnected, so the question, how can we do this?
First of all, let me just make a short comment on what has been said about the public and private collaboration. In my opinion, Community Networks, how are they defined in my opinion? Nondiscriminatory and open participation. This is not incompatible with businesses, which on the contrary, we argue that Community Networks deliver a perfect scenario for competition, but this means that the enterprises must also follow the rules of participation, as the rest of participants.
So it has already been said that it's better -- better than connecting the unconnected is to let them develop the infrastructure necessary to connect themselves. That's okay, but how to do so, and this is about empowering, no?
So how can we do this, no? We must make sure that they can set up the -- the ecosystem that is required that will allow them to develop this infrastructure, so the question is how we can help to create this ecosystem, and at least I see three points of action.
First is knowledge transfer, to make sure that they develop the infrastructure to serve their needs, so they shape it as according to their needs, and they will, and to make sure that this doesn't end up in the hands of a private company or whatever else. In this specific point of action, I think the current community practitioners can help a lot.
The second point of action is funds. They are required, and at least to bootstrap initiatives. And many of these initiatives, because we are talking about those who have been left unconnected, and they basically have been left unconnected because it's not profitable by the private sector to deliver connectivity there, it's probably that they will need co-funding in the long-term. But the good thing is that we have proof that we are very efficient in terms of resource usage, so small funding can help a lot.
And the third point of action I see is at the institutional level. Yeah, at least we must be acknowledged. We are already being acknowledged when we are invited to participate in these sort of events, but we can do much more. We can receive explicit support.
It has already been said that policymaking is needed to work further, making a spectrum available, making access to docs and other facilities to deploy fiber or whatever other technology, and that was my -- my thoughts.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you. Next one up is Mahabir Pun.
>> MAHABIR PUN: Thank you. I am Mahabir Pun in Nepal. I started Nepal Wireless, a small project way back in 2000 when the wireless technology was just emerging, so at that time I didn't know that I would be involved in building networks like this for a long time, but I'm still working on it, so I think most of us who are involved in these Community Networks are involved because we love the communities, and I suppose all of us who are involved doing this are not, you know, trying to make, you know, a lot of money or a business out of it, so what I see is when we talk about, you know, empowering the unconnected people, we just mostly think about, you know, the people living in the remote areas, people living far from the, you know, remote areas, but what I see is there are unconnected people in the urban areas as well, so we should not, you know -- we should not forget those people, unconnected people living both in the urban areas and rural areas, the unconnected. Most of them are poor people, you know, so they need help.
So what -- the way -- the way we can empower them is, you know, first we need to connect them, you know, to connect them. They need help at the beginning, but after, you know, we connect them, to empower them, we need to give the ownership to these people. Without people, ownership in these people who get connected, they won't be able to, you know, make it sustainable, and so it's very important issues.
And so to empower them, they need -- at the beginning, they need a lot of training because most of these unconnected people, like I said, they're poor and they're less educated, so they need training, and -- training on the technical issues and training on maintaining, you know -- training on, you know, the mobilizing and the communities, so that kind of training. They need it. Without that, you know, they cannot be empowered.
So -- and also, to empower them, you know, these people, unconnected people, you know, they need help not only in one sector, they need help in different sectors. You know, I have seen that there are several Civil Societies who are, you know, specifically involved in some specific areas, like some are doing -- you know, trying to help in the agriculture area, some are trying to help, you know, in the health area, education area, different areas, so my thing is, you know, to empower them, you know, we need to -- we need to try to involve in as many areas as possible to empower these rural communities, like for health, education, and anything.
So that's what my solution is, and also, you know, sooner or later, most of -- we have seen that most of the governments around the world are trying to, you know, bring eGovernment services for the people, so what we have seen, without connecting these people, unconnected people, and without empowering them, no matter what that the government does to bring the, you know, eGovernment system, that is not going to work, so that's very important step the government needs to take.
And one thing which I'm doing also, in Nepal trying to do, I would like to give all the friends who are involved in the Community Network, is to find ways to, you know, build these unconnected, you know, communities -- connect them first and make those communities smart communities, so I'm working on, you know, finding ways to make the villages, the rural areas, you know, smart villages. That's what I'm saying now. So we are working with -- with some of my team members in Nepal to try to make ways to make villages smart. That means using the technology and bringing the benefit to the people as much as it is possible, and I am, you know, interested to collaborate with all the partners to find ways how to make the villages and communities smart communities. Thank you.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thank you, Mahabir. Next up is Ruth, and she's translated by Peter. Go ahead.
>> RUTH OROZCO: (Speaking non-English language)
>> PETER BLOOM: Good afternoon. My name is Ruth. I'm going to be presenting the organization Telecomunicaciones, which is Indigenous Community Telecommunications, which is a project that operates in Oaxaca, Mexico, and is allied with Rhizomatica.
>> RUTH OROZCO: (Speaking non-English language)
>> PETER BLOOM: So the organization is a not-for-profit Civil Society organization working on cellular connectivity in indigenous communities here in Mexico. One important thing we have in our favor is that we are a concession holder from the Mexican regulatory authority, so we're the fourth GSM operator in Mexico, and we're comprised of 20 communities, as of today. We have another community that came on. And that's about -- so it's 20 communities manage those networks and there's about 15 actual physical networks.
>> RUTH OROZCO: (Speaking non-English language)
>> PETER BLOOM: So I'm going to talk a little bit about how we do the work that we do. The first thing we try to take into consideration is an organizing principle that ensures that communities know what it means to be part of this network. In our case, the communities are actually the owners and the operators of their own networks, the organization is not the owner of the networks. We're not a company, again, and we're not seeking profits, but, nevertheless, when the community puts up their own network, they also become part of the organization, and that implies shared responsibility and also shared benefit.
>> RUTH OROZCO: (Speaking non-English language)
>> PETER BLOOM: So the way we work is we make sure to always be in contact with the community assembly, the highest decision-making body in the communities that we're working in in order to be able to explain some of the issues that might come along with becoming a telecommunications operator.
Basically, for this process to get started, a community needs to have a community meeting and then manifest or express their interest to us as an organization before we will engage with them further around the network.
>> RUTH OROZCO: (Speaking non-English language)
>> PETER BLOOM: So once the community purchases the equipment necessary, so every community, again, is the owner of their equipment, once they do that, we help train the administrative committee in the operation of the network, which is generally fairly simple, it has to do with signing people up for service, adding top-up credit to their phones, things like that. They're also the link around technical support with the organization if it should get to that point. They also are meant to help deal with some of the technical issues directly.
So that is basically the model of co-participation that we've developed.
>> RUTH OROZCO: (Speaking non-English language)
>> PETER BLOOM: So in terms of the technology, the equipment that we're talking about here are GSM or cellular base stations that provides the coverage to the community as well as an administrative computer and a bunch of software that we and others have developed to actually allow the administration to happen, which we just talked about.
In terms of providing long distance, we use voice over IP and work with many small ISP and other community wireless networks. Just for your information, it's just a 2G network, so right now it's voice and SMS.
>> RUTH OROZCO: (Speaking non-English language)
>> PETER BLOOM: So just quickly on the legal part, as mentioned, we have a concession from the Mexican government, two concessions, one as a telecommunications operator, which allows us to run any communication service that we wish and a 15 year spectrum dispensation in GSM, which makes us, again, the fourth operator, if you want to look at it that way.
>> RUTH OROZCO: (Speaking non-English language)
>> PETER BLOOM: Okay. So quickly, just about challenges. We just had our first annual assembly in which all of our assembly members, which are the communities that have these networks, have come together. They have a voice and a vote in the affairs of the organization. And some of the things that came up quickly are making the technology simpler to use, so for reasons like numbering and so on it's sometimes complicated to dial in, we don't have a number block, that's one issue. The issue of being able to consistently and constantly train up the administrators. Many of them rotate out, so there's political churn is one of the words we use in English to describe that, when different local authorities change, sometimes the administrator changes as well.
Right now we're in a moment where the telecom's regulator isn't trying to get us to pay for the spectrum, but the tax authority is, so when the reform of communications happened, they forgot, eventually, to make an exemption for these types of networks, which are very clearly laid out as to what the rights are and so on, so we're in a bit of a struggle right now. At this moment, the taxes aren't that high, but we want to not have to pay them as a precedent because why should we be paying taxes on spectrum that we didn't have to pay for on the first place and on which we're providing a critical service, both the government and private sector that are unwilling and unable to provide.
Our last challenge is to simply deepen the relationship with the communities and make it as clear as possible that we're not a service provider, they're the service provider and we're here to support them. Thank you very much.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Thanks very much. The last part, we'll have some more comments, and can I already ask you at the end of the session to -- anybody that's interested and is not on the Dynamic Coalition list yet, please come and give me your email address and get to work with us to build the Community Networks.
And I think Bob was first, had something to say from the last part.
>> BOB: I just wanted to make a brief comment that public-private, I think, is the wrong dichotomy. It's really a question of whether individuals or communities are the customers in the funding units. We work -- it doesn't -- and so if you say the community as a whole, then you provide the infrastructure, the individual is more services.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Luis.
>> LUIS MARTINEZ: Thank you. Luis Martinez. From many of the comments and especially from Ruth and Peter's comment, I need to stress out the importance of not starting in the solution as technology. We -- we really face a challenge on the culture, yes, because we're bringing an external and foreign element into their community, which is used as some of the pictures we have seen on crops and simple community life, so we're bringing an element of communication but also an element of cultural complication, and one of the -- our -- the challenges I see here is how to empower, you need to adopt the technology. Yes, empowerment doesn't arise from magic, it needs work, and that work has to be done by someone, and usually engineers, we finish work connecting cables and putting things to work.
There's a gap in the middle, and we need to fill that gap, and that's the real cultural challenge. Sorry. Thank you.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Tony.
>> TONY: Yep. Thank you. My comment is on the challenge he has just mentioned. I think to make a Community Networks also better, looking at the experience that we had, it's just a matter of making the inception of a program right at the grass-root level. The inception starts from the capacity building of the grass-root people, especially for our example, we have what we call trainers of trainers. Those are the people who help us to bridge the gaps, the gaps that are there within the community, and at the end of the day, you find they're able to do troubleshooting, they're able to do connection, they're able to identify a bit of a challenge based on their knowledge and the level of that knowledge. So at the end of the day, that reduces the challenges that we have. Thank you.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Yep. Thank you. I was just told that we have four minutes left, so let's try to keep it very short. Next one was Osama. Last one.
>> OSAMA MANZAR: I would like to say that, you know, most of the Community Network is because of the necessity to connect them because the telecos and the government hasn't been able to provide those infrastructure and those connectivity, so I would say that we -- all the Community Network practices should probably say that we should break as many rules as possible, because under the rule you have not been able to provide any connectivity to us. We are left alone and we are not being provided. Whether it -- you know, because if you can make a rule, then you should also make a rule to -- in a given period of time, all the communities should be connected. If it is not connected, that's the reason why most of these efforts are going on in terms of connectivity.
Something like unauthorized colonies, you know. In most of the cities, you have unauthorized colonies. The more they proliferate, the more authorized it becomes. So they should proliferate, breaking all given rules, which is actually not connecting us, and, therefore, we should adopt what is making it possible in the community level. We should go ahead and do it because they haven't done it.
>> RAOUL PLOMMER: Okay. I think that was the best way to close the session, so I think -- well, thanks to everyone, and if you -- you can come out, and we have to leave the room because there is another session. You can come out of the room, and if you want to join the coalition, you're free to join. If you want to interact with people that are building Community Networks, they are outside, so thanks a lot, and meet you outside.
(Session concluded at 4:28 p.m.)