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Growing the Internet

Hurricane Dorian: We Are Not Dormant

Once again, the world is witnessing the destructive power of a natural disaster. This time, the name is Dorian. What worries us is the fact that wind speeds reached the maximum intensity of five on the Saffir-Simpson scale, causing unprecedented damage to islands of the Bahamas. Of further concern is the fact that some Caribbean countries still have not fully recovered from 2017 storms, Irma and Maria.  According to forecasts more storms can be expected as we are in the middle of the hurricane season.

The Caribbean remains vulnerable to natural disasters and this has a huge impact on the social and economic development of the region. According to Professor Jamal Saghir, former World Bank executive, and other experts, 20 percent of the Caribbean GDP is spent on natural disaster recovery.  You must realize that we are talking about Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) that are already prone to all kinds of challenges due to their small economies.

Natural disasters are not going away and we can even expect them to have greater destructive power in the future. Although we cannot fight against nature, doing nothing is not an option.

At the Internet Society we work for an open, globally-connected, trustworthy, and secure Internet for Everyone. With respect to being “globally connected”, we are focusing on innovative and smart ways to get people connected to the Internet. Communication before, during, and after a natural disaster is important.  Our community networks’ strategy should also be seen in that light. However, we are not mopping with an open tap; we need to do more and start focusing on designing and building more resilient critical communication infrastructures.

In the coming hours and days, Caribbean stakeholders will be focusing on how to get critical communication infrastructure restored as quickly as possible. Some of them are the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Agency (CDEMA); the Disaster Risk Management committee (DRM) of the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Operators (CANTO); the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU); CaribNOG; and some NGOs.

Our diverse community, integrated by Chapters and Partners with experience in natural disaster mitigation, will be a key element to keep working together in finding ways to support the region. At this stage, we are waiting on the “All Clear” from the Bahamian authorities so that structural help can be received on site.

I am calling on our partners and Chapter members with technical expertise in restoring critical Internet infrastructure and who are willing and able to assist, to please contact me. Let’s contribute to maintaining a connected Internet for everyone.

Categories
Growing the Internet Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

Caribbean Community Gathers Together to Discuss Improving Connectivity in the Region

Cooperation has been key to expanding Internet access around the globe. Ten years ago, the African region created AfPIF, a space focused on collaboration about among regional actors on topics related to peering and interconnection. Inspired by that project, in 2014 I approached Bevil Wooding to create a similar space for the Caribbean.

In recent years, the Caribbean has been losing its traditional industries, such as sugar and banana production. In this context, the Internet can be seen as a good opportunity to leverage the local economy. Fortunately, the idea gained the support of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG). That’s how the Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum (CarPIF) was born.

From its inaugural meeting in 2015, CarPIF has sought to bring together key infrastructure, service, and content providers to improve network interconnection, lower the cost of connectivity, and increase the number of Internet users and services in the Caribbean. This year, the meeting will be held from 12 to 13 June in Grenada, with the aim of highlight the active role played by the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in the successful deployment of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in countries like Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“CarPIF plays a key role in bringing together different parties to form the relationships and agreements necessary to increase local traffic exchange across the region. This event presents an opportunity for Grenada and the region to showcase the steps being taken to accelerate Internet development in the Caribbean,” said the CaribNOG Executive Director and co-founder of CarPIF, Bevil Wooding.

“In addition, the forum addresses the peculiar policy and regulatory challenges that have made Internet connectivity, access, and affordability difficult in some Caribbean countries. Removing barriers to infrastructure development, content availability, and Internet traffic distribution can have a significant and positive on Internet growth in the Caribbean, along with the benefits of economic development and social empowerment that follow.”

A very important fact unique to the Caribbean region is its vulnerability to natural disasters. Raising awareness on the need to build resilient telecoms and Internet infrastructures is very important. IXPs can play a key role to keep local communications ongoing during a natural disaster. Collaborative spaces such as CarPIF stress the importance of deploying strategic partnerships – because nobody Internets alone.

Internet exchange points provide a vital way to increase the affordability and quality of connectivity in local communities. Read the Internet Society’s policy brief on IXPs.

Categories
Community Networks Growing the Internet

Community Networks Workshop at CANTO Annual Conference

Globally, significant progress has been made in recent years with respect to Internet access, however, much more needs to be done. Presently, 54% of the global community is not connected to the Internet. In the Caribbean region, big disparities can be noted. As measured by Internet penetration rates, while countries such as Barbados (80%), Trinidad & Tobago (70%) are well connected, this is not the case in others such as Haiti (12%) and Guyana (40%).

The challenge in less-connected countries is mainly in their large rural communities.  This is where the Internet Society’s ongoing work related to Community Networks (CNs) hopes to have some impact.

Smart strategies, utilizing the skills, knowledge, and authority of all stakeholders such as government, policy makers, the business community, operators, academia, and civil society entities need to be explored. While governments can play a key role, especially with respect to policies that foster network deployment in rural and underserved areas, telecoms operators are also very important. These operators have well-developed transport networks that can be used as backhaul for community networks developers, to get Internet access to rural communities. Conversations with members of the Internet ecosystem often do not include the operators that are actually deploying the infrastructure.

To change this approach, the Internet Society organized the “Workshop on Community Networks and the Opportunity to Partner with All Stakeholders,” including all stakeholders who can help us to achieve the ultimate goal, which is to get more people connected to the Internet.

The workshop was held at the main annual event of the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Operators (CANTO) in Panama City, Panama. CANTO started as a state-owned telecoms operators’ organization thirty-five year ago, and has grown to a full-fledged ICT organization, hosting one of the main ICT events in the Caribbean region.

At the workshop, the Internet Society team consisted of:

  • Jane Coffin, Director Development Strategy at the Internet Society
  • Adriana Labardini, former commissioner at the Regulator IFT in Mexico
  • Nicolas Pace, from AlterMundi
  • Shernon Osepa, Manager Regional Affairs of the Internet Society’s LAC- Bureau

The presentations and discussions focused on:

  • The Internet Society’s role in promoting community networks
  • Real-world cases which showcased the Internet Society’s contribution to the development of community networks
  • The regulatory and legal experiences while deploying community networks in Mexico and other countries
  • Global examples of the challenges, such as technical, regulatory, economic, and social, when deploying community networks
  • Opportunities that community networks can bring to a community
  • Panelists also responded to questions from participants

Approximately 40 people, consisting of high-level policy makers, regulators, operators, and civil society attended the workshop. In addition to the workshop itself, the team also engaged with key people attending the CANTO conference.

As a next step, the Internet Society will continue to focus on a few Caribbean countries such as Guyana, Suriname, Haiti, and Dominican Republic with large rural underserved areas, and to assist them, with local involvement and commitment to deploy community networks.

The Internet Society is committed to addressing the connectivity challenge especially in rural areas, using innovative ways and community networks and invites all stakeholders to support this noble initiative.

You can create or support a community network. Here’s how!