The COVID-19 Response Statement from the G20 Virtual Ministerial Meeting on April 30, 2020 mentions community networks as one of the means to expand connectivity “Furthermore, digital capacities should be expanded, in particular by increasing broadband connectivity using fixed, mobile, and satellite technologies and by exploring non-traditional means of connectivity, such as community networks.”
The ITU has launched a new study paper on broadband and connectivity solutions for rural and remote areas where it recommends regulators, among other things to “Ease regulatory requirements for community network operators.”
A post was split to a new topic: Sistema de aula virtual simple?
APC joined Zenzeleni to provide input to the South Africa Regulator, ICASA, which sought “Comments in respect of the Provisioning of Mobile Broadband Wireless Open Access Services for Urban and Rural Areas Using the Complementary Bands, IMT700, IMT800, IMT2300, IMT2600 and IMT3500”. The submission aimed at bringing to the attention of ICASA the framework created by the UK regulator, OfCom, which has created the possibility of non-exclusive use of the spectrum in those bands, hence opening the possibility for community networks to create their own mobile data autonomous networks. https://www.apc.org/en/pubs/comments-respect-provisioning-mobile-broadband-wireless-open-access-services-urban-and-rural
KICTANet, Tunapanda Networks, Rhizomatica, APC and the Internet Society provided comments to the “Public Consultation on the Draft Dynamic Spectrum Access Framework for Authorisation of the Use of TV White Spaces” from the the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK). Besides providing some technical recommendations, comments welcomed the decision from CAK and urged the authority to continue the process until final regulations are published.
The ITU Council wants to hear directly “How can small/community/non-profit operators help in promoting the increase of Internet connectivity?” This poses an unique opportunity to showcase directly to the Council all the amazing work that most of you are doing. The consultation is structured as a set of questions, one of them the one included above, available in the following link
The Uganda Communications Commission has introduced a category for a License for Communal Access".
New 2020 academic article on community networks. The researchers utilise the Global Information Society Watch 2018 edition on community networks to analyse the 11 Asia CN cases and operationalise a conceptual framework called People, Technology, Organization and Environment (PTOE).
Rich and Pather, 2020. A response to the persistent digital divide: Critical components of a community network ecosystem. Information Technology.
African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms Coalition
Position Paper in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic (June 2020)
In the section, equitable access to the internet, the Coalition speaks to the role of community networks in the pandemic (page 4-5). The section on CNs is found below.
“For the Coalition, community networks play an important role in responding to
the COVID-19 pandemic. These decentralised community-built and owned networks are the most effective way to overcome digital exclusion in areas that are still isolated from the social and economic dynamics of the digital era,18 as seen with Zenzeleni Networks NPC in South Africa and TunapandaNET in East Africa..”
“Instructively, they are examples of community networks that are using their infrastructure to localise COVID-19-related information to fit the local context and languages, as the information released is mostly in English. At the same time, TunapandaNET is providing an e-learning platform and has been supporting teachers in the digitisation of Kenya’s school curriculum. Further, the Centre for Youth and Development in Malawi is supporting teachers to run classes on WhatsApp to enable teachers to share lessons recorded as videos or voice notes with parents. ”
“However, community networks face many challenges for their development, from
lack of access to unused spectrum in underserved areas, to expensive and highly
bureaucratic processes to obtain a licence. The Coalition sees this as an opportune time for governments to remove these barriers so community networks can expand services to unserved or underserved communities.”
 APCNews. (2020, 8 April). Zenzeleni and Tunapanda community networks respond to COVID-in Africa. APC. https://www.apc.org/en/news/zenzeleni-and-tunapanda-community-networks-respond-covid-19-africa
ICTD 2020 Paper Session 1.1 - 6/17/2020
“Connecting Isolated Communities: Quantitative Evidence on the Adoption of Community Cellular Networks in the Philippines”. Presented by Niall Keleher.
Paper found here: https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/3392561.3394645
“Women and the Sustainability of Rural Community Networks in the Global South”. Presented by Nicola J. Bidwell
Paper can be found here: https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/3392561.3394649
Nic Bidwell’s presentation on Altermundi in “Wireless in the Weather-world and Community Networks Made to Last”
The launch of the Roadmap for the High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, which recognizes that “Some policies have been shown to promote connectivity, including regulations aimed at creating an enabling environment for smaller-scale providers, including broadband cooperatives, municipal networks and local businesses, by putting in place practices such as facilitating licence exemption and tax incentive schemes” and it sets itself to “d) Promote the development of enabling regulatory environments for smaller-scale Internet providers, along with local and regional assessments of connectivity needs;”.
The report is here.
The report “Progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels - Report of the Secretary-General” released this month at the UN Commission for Science and Technology for Development, recognizes the contributions made by global civil society organization on making recommendations for innovations in spectrum management to support community networks.
APC’s submissions to the open consultation to prepare the 6th ITU World Telecommunications Policy Forum. It includes one for the Forum to consider a more substantial role of communities in providing connectivity.
Community networks responses to the Reg4COVID ITU call
Many community networks have responded to this call, here are some of their responses.
- Zenzeleni: https://www.itu.int/net4/ITU-D/CDS/REG4COVID/Display.asp?ID=54280
- BAIF: https://www.itu.int/net4/ITU-D/CDS/REG4COVID/Display.asp?ID=54281
- Janastu (1): https://www.itu.int/net4/ITU-D/CDS/REG4COVID/Display.asp?ID=54283
- Janastu (2): https://www.itu.int/net4/ITU-D/CDS/REG4COVID/Display.asp?ID=54282
- Janastu (3): https://www.itu.int/net4/ITU-D/CDS/REG4COVID/Display.asp?ID=54284
- IIT Bombay: https://www.itu.int/net4/ITU-D/CDS/REG4COVID/Display.asp?ID=54278
- IBE Brasil:https://www.itu.int/net4/ITU-D/CDS/REG4COVID/Display.asp?ID=54270
- AlterMundi: https://www.itu.int/net4/ITU-D/CDS/REG4COVID/Display.asp?ID=54167
- Colnodo: https://www.itu.int/net4/ITU-D/CDS/REG4COVID/Display.asp?ID=54284
On June 25th the ITU launched the Smart Villages Blueprint
The Webcast and presentations on the launch are now available similarities between #smartvillages and #communitynetworks are very strong so this is a big opportunity to create policy and regulatory frameworks to enable them both
On June 26th the Africa Union Commission, the African Telecommunications Union, the Internet Society, Mozilla, Nethope and the Association for Progressive Communications organized a webinar on “Shared Spectrum Strategies to Increase Affordable Access in Rural Areas”
The recording is now available here
The message from the speakers was loud and clear: #TVWS is a great, but #IMT needs to be shared too