Growing the Internet

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Community Networks Growing the Internet

The Digital Divide May Be News, But It’s Not New

This opinion piece was originally published in Morning Consult.

Low-income Americans; Black, Hispanic and Native Americans; the elderly; Americans with a high school education or less; and rural Americans are much more likely to be on the wrong side of the digital divide. Ours remains a nation where too many people, often our most vulnerable citizens, are unconnected or under-connected.

The digital divide may have made the news during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it isn’t new.

For much of the past quarter-century, Washington policymakers have ignored the digital divide. In more recent years, some public officials, for political reasons, have identified the digital divide as primarily a rural issue, noting that approximately 5 million rural American households can’t access broadband networks. In reality, the number of rural households that can’t access broadband is dwarfed by the roughly 20 million American households that can’t afford Internet access, and that number almost certainly has increased as a result of the pandemic.

Today, Washington finally seems willing to engage in addressing the digital divide. What we need now are not the patchwork solutions of the past, but a thoughtful, fully funded, comprehensive effort to ensure broadband connectivity for all Americans.

My colleagues and I at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration identified the disparity in access to Internet technology in 1995 in “Falling Through the Net: Haves and Have-nots in Rural and Urban America.” In that report, we noted that several factors impacted access to technology: income, race, education, age, and geography.

The difference today, however, is that broadband access has become critical to living life in our country. It is simply impossible to fully participate in society, particularly during a pandemic, without broadband access.

In 2020, 27 percent of elderly Americans don’t have broadband access. And 40 percent of small businesses in New York City are located in gigabit deserts and don’t have access to copious broadband networks.

As many as 30 percent of K-12 students, according to a report by Common Sense Media, don’t have the tools necessary to engage in remote learning. For many this will mean no continued learning during COVID-19 lockdowns.

And many of the 70 percent of residents on rural tribal lands who remain without access to fixed high-capacity broadband, according to The American Library Association, are unable to continue with their studies or job online.

How can we bridge the digital divide, thoughtfully and effectively?

Map availability and affordability

The Federal Communications Commission, and NTIA, in conjunction with state regulators, must find a way to accurately map broadband availability and affordability. You can’t fix what you don’t understand, and our regulators are flying blind when it comes to the true state of broadband connectivity in America today.

Redefine ‘broadband’

For some years the FCC has defined broadband as 25 megabytes per second down and 3 mps up. That standard was insufficient when it was adopted, and is now laughably outdated.

In a report I wrote for the incoming Obama administration in 2008, I called for a 100 mps national standard by 2010. Today, when video conferencing products such as Zoom are near essential tools for education, commerce, and entertainment, a low-bandwidth, asymmetrical standard is unacceptable.

The FCC must now update and modernize its definition of “broadband.” The starting point for any future broadband standard should be 100/100 mps, with an understanding it may take additional time for rural communities to reach that standard.

Modernize and adequately fund connectivity programs

The FCC’s Lifeline program, established during the Reagan era, provides subsidies to low-income families to enable connectivity to telecommunications devices. The current program’s provision of less than $10 per month for connecting one telecommunications device per household is far from adequate to enable meaningful connectivity.

Congress and the FCC must rethink and re-establish the program for the current broadband era.

Use public spaces to improve accessibility

In addition, there are three key things schools, libraries, and other public facilities could do to help reduce the digital divide and provide more equitable access to the Internet. The first two of which can be done immediately:

  1. Use schools and libraries as community WiFi hot spots. This requires a few things, all of which are possible right away: With relatively minimal funding, schools and libraries could place more outdoor access points on their facilities. This actively broadcasts the school or library’s WiFi signal to the local community so that students and – potentially – other community members can have access to Internet resources. The reach of outdoor, unlicensed WiFi is more limited than the other options below, but it can easily reach most of the block that the building is on.
  2.  Schools and libraries can help provide greater connectivity by providing WiFi hotspots to students, library patrons, and their families. There are a number of good options, not just from the main carriers, but from more education-focused providers like Kajeet, ENA, and Mobile Citizen.
  3. A final, more strategic solution that will take longer to implement but that holds significant promise for permanently resolving or reducing the homework gap: We should consider schools, libraries, and other institutions as anchor locations for true community-focused cellular Internet access.

Using either the Educational Broadband Services spectrum, or the Community Broadband Radio Services spectrum, schools, libraries, and other public facilities could provide secure, low-cost, and high capacity cellular wireless Internet to students (and other community members, potentially) across New York City.

Although the upfront costs of building out cellular data networks is more expensive than installing outdoor WiFi or purchasing hot spot plans, this solution would potentially cover much more of the city (indeed, all of it), and the long term total cost of ownership per student/community member is much, much less than paying ongoing fees for hot spot data plans.

We have a clear path toward full broadband connectivity. We can and should make connecting all Americans a national priority. We don’t have another quarter century to waste.

Image by bantersnaps via Unsplash

Growing the Internet Infrastructure and Community Development

In South Asia an Online Training Course Equips Engineers for the Future

The Internet Society, in partnership with South Asia Network Operators Group (SANOG) recently concluded a five-week, hands-on training course for entry level network engineers and system administrators from South Asia. The online course Introduction to Network Operations, which took place from June 15 to July 19, prepared professionals to take advantage of the new opportunities created by the Internet. The training provided practical learning about UNIX/Linux, networking, and the Domain Name System (DNS) to over 40 participants from Research Education Networks (RENs), government institutions, network operators, universities, and private institutions. SANOG subject matter experts Thilina Pathirana from Sri Lanka and Gazi Zehadul Kabir from Bangladesh moderated via Moodle, an e-learning platform.

Skills and Knowledge for Digital Transformation

The course aimed to prepare young engineers for the future. The technical skills and hands-on knowledge enable them to build expertise to advance professionally in their chosen field of network and system administration. The course also served as a common platform for South Asia community members to actively interact, exchange knowledge, and learn from one another.

For participants, the course was a great learning experience. “It was the best online course I had yet,” said Afaq Ahmed from Pakistan. For young engineers Shreekar Tiwari from Nepal and Randhir Kanojia from India, the course provided practical experience and skills to lead digital transformation in the region.

Immediate Rewards

Deepthi Gunasekara, an engineer from Sri Lanka, excelled during the course. She was offered a job by the Lanka Education And Research Network (LEARN) in Sri Lanka. She is now an Assistant Engineer at LEARN, a National Research and Education Network (NREN) that not only interconnects educational and research institutions across the country, but provides network-related services.

“It was an excellent experience on learning and implementing DNS. Internet Society Network Operations course was very helpful for me, especially [as] it brought an opportunity to uplift my professional career [and earn] a new job,” said Deepthi.

Course moderator Gazi Zehadul Kabir, a member of the National Network Design Committee of Bangladesh, was thrilled to learn a freshly-mentored engineer got a job. He said the course enabled even greater interaction with course participants online. “The Internet Society brought a new era for us with this online course, where [we were] more closer to students,” said Gazi.

For more that 15 years he has been part of the South Asia technical community. He is happy to have this opportunity to pass on skills he curated over the years to young people. His wish is that the Internet Society should continue strengthening the capacity of the South Asia Internet community to take advantage of future opportunities.

Learn more about Introduction to Network Operations.

Image by Kimberly Farmer via Unsplash

Community Networks Growing the Internet

Internet Society and the Association for Progressive Communications Enter into a Memorandum of Understanding

The Internet Society and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work together on designing and deploying community networks, ensuring local connectivity initiatives achieve long-term sustainability, and other areas of joint interest.

APC is an international network of civil society organizations founded in 1990 dedicated to empowering and supporting people working for peace, human rights, development, and protection of the environment, through the strategic use of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Both organizations have vast experience in growing the Internet through capacity building, advocating for ICT and infrastructure policies, and engaging local communities. This MoU updates and replaces a previous version. We are excited to further advance the work we’ve been doing together for nearly ten years.

The MoU lays out two key areas of joint interest:

  • Developing an enabling environment for communities and local entrepreneurs to solve their own connectivity challenges through design and deployment of community networks, training and capacity building efforts, and highlighting the benefits of connecting the unconnected.
  • Ensuring that local connectivity initiatives are able to reach long-term sustainability, support development opportunities, and contribute to meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in relation to connectivity.

“There remains a profound connectivity gap in many parts of the world. Better connectivity and information exchange strengthens democratic processes, spurs economic growth, and enables sharing of culture and ideas. We’re thrilled to work with APC to help increase connectivity via community networks — networks developed by local communities, with local communities, for local communities,” said Jane Coffin, Senior Vice President, Internet Grow at the Internet Society.

“APC finds the relationship with the Internet Society to be very positive and collaborative on various aspects, and complementary in nature, having contributed critically to the advancement of the community network movement in recent years,” said a representative from APC.

Learn more about our work on Community Networks, or learn more about APC’s work.

Image from the Digital Empowerment Foundation’s Wireless Training Centre in Guna, India ©Atul Loke

Community Networks Growing the Internet

The 2020 Indigenous Connectivity Summit and Trainings: Register Now

People around the world are relying on the Internet to keep them connected to everyday life, but Indigenous communities in North America are being left behind by companies and governments. Lack of connectivity means many are unable to access even basic information and healthcare. And while COVID-19 has hit Indigenous communities especially hard, lack of access means they can’t use services that connected populations consider critical, such as remote learning and teleworking.

We must address this critical gap.

For years, the Internet Society has worked with those very communities, along with network operators, technologists, civil society, academia, and policymakers – bringing them together to discuss what can be done collectively to narrow the digital divide. We do this through our Indigenous Connectivity Summit (ICS) and the pre-Summit Trainings: Community Networks and Policy and Advocacy.

This year, though we can’t meet in person, we’ll hold a virtual event.

We’re excited to announce that registration is now open for the 2020 Indigenous Connectivity Summit.

The Summit will take place October 5-9, 2020, with training sessions beginning the first week of September. Those who register for the Summit before Friday, September 11th will receive a swag bag and materials for hands-on training prior to the Summit. (Training registration will be open until August 28th.)

The 2020 Indigenous Connectivity Summit
Though we won’t be able to gather together in Winnipeg, Canada, as we had hoped, we are looking forward to gathering virtually to continue these important conversations. The venue is a bit different than we anticipated, but many aspects of the 2020 ICS will be the same.

We’ll still talk about many of the pressing issues Indigenous communities in North America face as they work to access the Internet on their own terms:

  • Sovereignty and creating a virtual nation
  • Access to resources such as infrastructure, spectrum, and backhaul
  • Capacity building
  • The Tribal Priority Window for Educational Broadband Service (EBS) spectrum and what 2.5GHz spectrum can be used for

We’re also working hard to include the features that make the ICS a must-attend event, including networking, team building, and unique experiences. The Indigenous Connectivity Summit has always been and will always be a place to foster human connections.

Pre-Summit Training
Following last year’s success, we are also offering two pre-Summit trainings: Policy and Advocacy and Community Networks. Participants of these trainings will hear from experts in the field about how to build, maintain, and operate community networks. They’ll also be equipped to fight for the policies that impact their community’s ability to deploy connectivity solutions on their own terms.

Each course will last six weeks, consisting of one hour-and-a-half long session per week. Sessions will begin the week of September 1, 2020 and run through the week of the Summit, culminating in a virtual hands-on training and the creation of this year’s policy recommendations, which will guide the community’s advocacy work for the next year.

We hope these courses and the Summit itself will equip participants with the skills and network they need to take advantage of emerging opportunities for connectivity as a result of COVID-19 – and to connect their communities on their own terms.

Please  join us for this year’s Indigenous Connectivity Summit and Trainings – and share the word with your partners and community!

Image of a community networks training program participant in Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories ©Angela Gzowski

Growing the Internet Infrastructure and Community Development

Partnering with Euro-IX on Infrastructure Development, Routing Security, and More

We can only be successful in creating an Internet for everyone if everyone is part of the effort. That’s why the Internet Society is thrilled to be entering into a partnership with the European Internet Exchange Association (Euro-IX).

The partnership was made official with a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 14 July. This formal agreement builds on an existing collaboration between the two organizations, who have worked together since 2012. But, whether it’s helping to bring cheaper and faster Internet to the world through the data provided in the IXP Database or making the Internet more secure by supporting the Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS), our work has only just begun.

Kjetil Otter Olsen, the chair of Euro-IX said, “The Internet Society has been an excellent supporter of Internet exchange points (IXPs) for many years and has lent the support of its teams across the world to promoting the benefits of peering for Internet networks and the end users of those networks globally.

“Signing this MoU, on behalf of Euro-IX and the community of IXPs we represent, reflects our shared commitment with the Internet Society to continue this work into the future.

“This MoU extends our existing relationship to continue to promote key projects that will improve routing security via the MANRS program and automated and accurate data collection from IXPs via the IXP Database (IXPDB), as well as to share ideas, experiences and collaborate on new projects for the betterment of the Internet and IXPs.”

Sharing and collaboration are key to creating a robust and secure Internet, which is accessible to all.  

“One of the most amazing things about the Internet is the people behind it,” says Michuki Mwangi, Senior Director for Internet Technology and Development. “Our shared belief that it takes a community to build the Internet is why we will be able to reach our goal of bringing a fast, affordable and secure Internet to the world. I’m excited to see what this partnership will bring.”

We’re stronger together than we are apart. Let’s keep teaming up to create an Internet for everyone.

Internet Exchange Points are vital to bringing faster and more affordable Internet to people. Learn how you can support them!

Image by Max Böttinger via Unsplash

IPv6 Measuring the Internet

Measuring the Internet – Mid Year Project Update

Here at the Internet Society, we believe that the Internet is for everyone. Our work centers on increasing the Internet’s reach, reliability and resilience, as well as ensuring that the network of networks remains open, globally connected, secure, and trustworthy.

But how do we assess whether our efforts – and the efforts of the global ecosystem of organizations that facilitate the smooth functioning of the Internet – are working? How can we see where protocols, such as IPv6, are being deployed and at what rate so we can better understand where more education on the benefits of such technologies might be helpful? Where can policy makers find a comprehensive set of data from various sources to help show decision makers that Internet Showdowns damage local economies and potentially harm citizens?

A Single Platform

There are many people, projects and organizations that are collecting data on various facets of the Internet, but there’s no single site that provides a curated set of insights. So, to help everyone gain deeper, data-driven insight into the Internet, the Internet Society is building a tool that consolidates trusted third-party Internet measurement data from various sources into a single platform –

We’ll use the data presented on the Insights platform to examine Internet trends, generate reports, and tell data-driven stories so that policymakers, researchers, journalists, network operators, civil society groups and others can better understand the health, availability and evolution of the Internet. 

Data Partners

It’s important to note that the Internet Society is not collecting data or performing measurements itself. Instead, we’re collating and curating publicly available data and making it available in one place so that users do not have to go to many individual sites to get the multiple sources of information they need. Our data sources include Internet Society Organization Members Facebook, Google and Oracle, among others. 

We’ve also put in place agreements and partnerships with several other organizations in the Internet measurement community and are continuing these outreach efforts to secure access to more data. These key strategic relationships will enable us to present and use Internet measurement data that is currently not publicly available and data that might have limited public availability. And, as the Insights platform develops, these relationships will also facilitate collaboration with industry leaders on other aspects of data collection and Internet measurements.

Strategic Relationships 

One such relationship is with Internet Society Organization Member, AFRINIC, the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Africa. Signed on 23 July 2020, the agreement builds upon a strategic, long-term partnership agreement held between both organizations aimed at strengthening collaboration throughout Africa. The primary goal of this partnership is to drive the development of the Internet in the region through projects and research related to Internet measurements, Internet resilience, routing security, open Internet standards, and Internet Exchange Points (IXPs). 

An agreement has also been signed with the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA). CAIDA’s long-standing work on monitoring the Internet in near-real time to identify macroscopic Internet outages will further strengthen the Insights platform’s focus on Internet Shutdowns and Internet Resilience. 

Making Progress  

We’ve been working on the Insights platform as part of our Measuring the Internet project since the beginning of 2020 and are making good progress. Development work is already under way and we plan to launch by the end of the 2020. As we want to make Insights available as soon as possible, we’ll initially launch with two focus areas, Internet Shutdowns and Enabling Technologies. Meanwhile, work will continue on finalizing metrics and data sources for our other two focus areas, Internet Resilience and the Internet Way of Networking (IWN), as well as on outreach and partnership development.

Stay Informed

Community Networks

Tribal Priority Window Extended to September 2 – But It’s Still Not Enough Time to Connect Indigenous Communities to a Critical Lifeline

While Indigenous communities across the US battle some of the most brutal COVID-19 mortality rates in the country, they’ve simultaneously raced against the clock to take advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to access and manage their own broadband.

The Tribal Priority Window is an unprecedented opportunity for eligible US Tribes to apply for 2.5GHz spectrum leases ahead of the federal auction. Targeted at the most digitally underserved communities in the US— where only half of housing units have access to broadband— the Window is intended to enable rural Tribes access to Internet service and the development of services to narrow the digital divide. The application process posed significant challenges to Tribes who already struggle with poor connectivity. The digital format, coupled with COVID-19 realities, has hampered their ability to file applications within the deadline.

Due to the insurmountable obstacles posed by the pandemic, Tribes and nearly 100 organizations have called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Congress to extend the Tribal Priority Window by 180 days.

In response, the FCC has granted them just 30 additional days to file their applications. In its order, the FCC says that this extension is due to the unusual challenges presented by the pandemic. However, the pandemic is expected to worsen in the next month, not improve.

This extension only gives the portion of Tribes already engaged in the process some extra time to wrap up applications. It does not provide nearly enough time to boost overall awareness and enrollment. The spread of COVID-19 has not slowed, and Tribes continue to battle high infection and mortality rates. Tribes that have not previously engaged in the Tribal Priority Window will continue to encounter immense barriers to collect all the materials necessary, pass Tribal resolutions, engage their community, and submit applications within the new 30-day window.

As Public Knowledge writes in a recent statement, the FCC’s order cites T-Mobile’s comments that suggest that an extension would be necessary. T-Mobile called for a 90-day extension. Even the Window’s critics recognized that a 30-day extension is not enough time for Tribes to take advantage of the unprecedented opportunity for urgently-needed access to broadband.

So many crucial aspects of Tribal life directly and immediately depend on their communities’ ability to apply for spectrum licenses within the Tribal Priority Window. The initiative will allow Tribes the ability to connect their homes, workplaces, hospitals and schools. Tribal students’ educations and futures currently depend on reliable connectivity, and so does the functionality of life-saving telehealth services. Broadband access and stewardship is a necessity for the future of Tribal life.  Tribal communities are long overdue the opportunity to access what is now an indisputable and vital public resource.

Granting Tribes only 30 days to apply for the Tribal Priority Window will leave Tribes that have not been previously engaged in these conversations struggling to connect, and — in a COVID-19 world — struggling to carry out crucial functions of daily life.

At the Internet Society, we believe that the Internet is for everyone. By working alongside Tribal communities in recent weeks, we have been able to spread the word with our partners to many of the 574 federally-recognized Tribes — over 100 of which have successfully submitted applications. We will continue our commitment to making the Internet available to all by pushing for tribal access and empowering communities with networking solutions to fit their needs.

For more information on the Tribal Priority Window and how to apply, visit our site:

And to get engaged in these important conversations, learn more about how to use your license if granted, and build relationships with other Indigenous advocates and community networkers, join us at the Indigenous Connectivity Summit from October 5 – 9 or join a pre-Summit training. Learn more here:

Image credit: © 2019 Elyse Butler. The photo is from a Community Network training program with Nation of Hawaii as part of 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit, leading to the build of Hawaii’s first community network in Pu’uhonua o Waimānalo.

Growing the Internet Measuring the Internet

A Partnership to Improve Africa’s Internet Infrastructure Resilience and Reliability

Last week, we announced an expanded partnership with AFRINIC, the Regional Internet Registry for the African region. On Friday, 24 July, Eddy Kayihura, Chief Executive Officer at AFRINIC, and I, on behalf of the Internet Society, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two organizations to work on several projects including Internet measurements, routing security, and infrastructure and community development. 

Right after the virtual signing ceremony, we described the first collaborative activity under the new MoU – the Africa Internet Measurements. Part of our Measuring the Internet project, the effort aims to tackle the problem of Internet resilience and reliability in the continent.

Although Africa has significantly increased Internet penetration in the last decade, the continent must improve the resilience and the reliability of its Internet infrastructure to pave the way for future innovations and technological advancements as expressed in the African Union’s 2063 agenda. Without proper measurements and data, we don’t know where the problem is, what we need to improve, or if our solutions work. Much of the available Internet measurement data relating to Africa measures only specific types of Internet traffic and not overall Internet resilience, which is the ability of the network to provide and maintain an acceptable level of service in the face of faults and challenges to normal operation.

Work is already underway, with teams from AFRINIC and the Internet Society collaborating on establishing a framework of metrics that will help to determine Internet resilience throughout Africa. This framework will eventually inform the Internet Resilience focus area of the Measuring the Internet project’s Insights platform (currently under development), which will provide actionable data to governments and policymakers as well as provide historical data on the growth of, and improvements to, the continent’s Internet resilience.

Eddy Kayihura, Chief Executive Officer at AFRINIC, and Dawit Bekele, Regional Vice President – Africa at the Internet Society, just after signing the MoU

We’ve been working with AFRINIC for many years; this partnership agreement merely formalizes and extends a relationship that has already expanded Internet access across Africa through community networks, promoted open Internet standards, built Internet Exchange Points, and more. We’re also honored to have AFRINIC as an Internet Society Organization Member.

Watch the full signing ceremony and Measurements Q&A in the video below, and if you’re interested in getting involved with the Measuring the Internet project, contact us at

Community Networks Growing the Internet

How Community Networks Are Helping during COVID-19

In July 2020, the Internet Society organized the webinar “How Community Networks are helping during COVID-19.”

We are halfway through this unprecedented year in which COVID-19 continues to cause disruptions and confusion in many areas of our lives. What is clear though, is the recognition of the Internet as a lifeline for us – for communicating with family members and health workers, accessing essential services, and participating in online learning and remote work.

But what about those who don’t have it?

The panel was an opportunity to show that there are solutions out there. To get to them will take strong communities driven by the understanding that everyone can make a difference.

The discussions of July’s webinar got to the heart of this.

The panelists shared stories and videos of the community networks they have helped to build in remote villages where underserved Indigenous tribes live. We heard the story of one Indigenous tribe located in the southern part of West Java in Indonesia, who set up a wireless network for their community. It helped them find jobs and increase their income, as well as access health information, learning resources, and government services.

In India, an Indigenous tribe of 2,000 people in Maharashtra gained access in December 2019 to the mobile network and the Internet through a community network. Gram Marg, an organization focused on empowering rural India digitally, helped build it. In the past, the Indigenous villagers had to walk 12km for banking services. But with connectivity and the appointment and training of a woman “banking correspondent” in the village who can provide banking services through a smartphone, there is a new lifeline for the community. With lockdown imposed by the government and roads closed, the villagers have depended on the banking correspondent for banking and government services. Connectivity has also enabled mothers to talk to doctors and nutritionists, using a toll-free number set up by the Spoken Tutorial Project, can provide advice about nutrition for mothers and children.

Emphasized throughout the webinar was the importance of community empowerment. Community networks are not just about establishing an Internet connection. It is more about the communities and how the Internet can help them fulfill their needs. In both community networks in India and Indonesia, the Indigenous tribes have used the Internet to preserve and share their culture, local knowledge, and agricultural practices.

It was also clear throughout the webinar that COVID-19 has exposed the inequalities in Internet access and affordability. The reality is half the world’s population remains unconnected, and trends are showing a slowdown in the rate at which people are coming online. This is partly because many of the unconnected live in remote, hard-to-reach areas that are not economically viable for traditional solutions.

While community networks offer an essential and complementary solution to connect to the Internet, there continue to be many challenges to building them. The policy and regulatory environment often poses the greatest challenge – things such as high fees and unrealistic requirements for licensing and permits to build a community network.

In Indonesia, with thousands of islands and varying local policies and rules, it is a challenge navigating the policy and regulatory system to legally establish and operate community networks. Currently, a mapping of the regulatory and policy system is being carried out and a series of workshops and training courses are being planned to bring together those engaged in community networks development in Indonesia to look at different business models and practices, and learn from each other about ways to sustain and grow the community networks.

If you missed the event, you can watch the recording on Livestream and Periscope.

For those who are interested in getting involved in setting up or promoting community networks please get in touch.

Image of Community Network Champs at a training center near Guna, India ©Atul Loke/Panos Pictures/Internet Society

Community Networks Growing the Internet

A Narrow Window of Opportunity for Rural Connectivity in the U.S.

As COVID-19 continues to shine a spotlight on the vital role the Internet plays, a short window of opportunity has opened for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to do their part in connecting rural Indigenous communities in the United States.

The Tribal Priority Window is currently open for federally-recognized tribes, Alaska Native Villages, and Hawaiian Homelands to apply for Educational Broadband Service (EBS) spectrum, but it closes on August 3rd. Access to the EBS spectrum would enable Indigenous communities to build their own Internet networks.

The FCC set this deadline before the pandemic, but Tribal governments are now overwhelmed by handling the Coronavirus with limited resources. The FCC must give them more time to apply to the priority window. COVID-19 will not simply disappear from tribal lands in time for tribal governments to pull together applications.

The need for reliable, affordable Internet access is more pressing than ever.

Need proof? One only has to look at the fact that Indigenous communities in the US face the lowest rate of broadband access and the highest per capita rate of COVID-19 infections. The need for access to accurate information and telehealth is at an all-time high. Tribal communities are at serious risk without the Internet as a lifeline.

If the FCC truly wants to close the digital divide, it must act immediately to extend the Tribal Priority Window. Gaining EBS spectrum is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Tribal communities. The FCC will effectively exacerbate the lack of connectivity if it does not act fast. They’ve already done the work of creating the chance for tribes to get connected, but they will throw away the opportunity if they don’t do more to accommodate Indigenous communities, who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

The Internet Society is working to provide resources and support to tribes looking to apply for EBS spectrum.

Learn more about the Tribal Priority Window.