IGF 2021 DC3 Sustainable Funding Models for Community Networks

Time
Thursday, 9th December, 2021 (12:50 UTC) - Thursday, 9th December, 2021 (14:20 UTC)
Room
Conference Room 7
DC

Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity

Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Subtheme

Business models and investment: The IGF has frequently addressed the principles, approaches, business models, incentives and coordinated actions by various stakeholders (governments, local authorities, regulators, fixed and mobile broadband Internet service providers, telecom companies, local communities, etc.) to spur investments in connectivity solutions and enable more affordable Internet access in developing countries. What can the IGF do to capture and communicate the emerging consensus resulting from these discussions? What are the barriers to this emerging consensus being implemented and how can they be overcome?

Description

Most Community Networks (CNs) are initially supported by grants and several forms of external funding. These initiatives usually rely on active participation of local communities in the design and development of a business model that will help make the CN financially sustainable once the seed funding is over.

In an ideal scenario, the deployment and management of community owned infrastructure is performed by community members and governed in a democratic fashion. However, there are different business models throughout the world, and they tend to rely on hyperlocal context. Since most funders are concerned with the scalability of projects they support, there might be disconnect between the focus on developing local, context dependent business models and their potential to scale in different geographic areas and cultural settings.

The IGF 2021 session of the Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity (DC3) will focus on exploring ways to make alternative connectivity models (including community networks) financially sustainable and at the same time scalable and/or replicable. Session participants will provide their standpoints and share experiences and good practices discussing the contributions to the 2021 DC3 Outcome, a collective volume dedicated to “Community Networks: Towards Sustainable Funding Models” that will be launched during the session.

The session will have the following agenda:

Introduction and presentation of DC3 and its work

Keynote speeches by Dr Natalia Vinelli, Enacom Argentina: "Connectivity program 'Roberto Arias' in Argentina", and by Anriette Esterhuysen, UN IGF MAG Chair.

Presentations of case studies and best practices

Discussion of funding models and financial sustainability of community networks

Discussion of next steps and further actions for DC3

Organizers

Senka Hadzic, CyberBRICS / Research ICT Africa

Luca Belli, FGV Law School

Speakers

Natalia Vinelli, Enacom

Anriette Esterhuysen, UN IGF MAG Chair

Nicolas Echaniz, Altermundi

Marwan Fayed, Cloudflare

Carlos Rey Moreno, APC

Jane Coffin, ISOC

Senka Hadzic, CyberBRICS / Research ICT Africa

David Johnson, University of Cape Town

Sarbani Belur, APC and IIT Mumbai

Nic Bidwell, IUM Namibia

Paulo José Lara, Article 19

 

Onsite Moderator

Luca Belli, FGV Law School

Online Moderator

Judith Hellerstein, Hellerstein & Associates

Rapporteur

Judith Hellerstein, Hellerstein & Associates

SDGs

4. Quality Education
9.c
10. Reduced Inequalities

Targets: Community networks directly contribute to SDG 9, specifically target 9.c as they provide universal and affordable access to the Internet and help increase access to ICTs. These initiatives usually include the skills development component (SDG 4). Due to their human-centric nature, CNs are carefully designed to empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all community members (SDG 10).

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)
New solutions and new innovative ideas need to be tried to connect people in hard to reach areas. Community networks are one of these solutions as are other innovative solutions such as prepaid vouchers, Innovative financing models for sustainability, tokens and other methods where organizations can sell or purchase bandwidth to give out to others on a network
Importance of bringing connectivity to rural areas. Need for new innovative models for connecting people to networks. Need more innovative programs like the ones that the Argentine regulator has created exclusively for community networks. In the past, advocates for community connectivity have struggled for any years to have a program that can route Universal access funds to small cooperatives or community networks so that they can access the fu
Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)
New models for connecting remote and rural users need to be creative. Community net works are one option, but also need new innovative financial mechanisms to pay for these networks. Examples are voucher based systems, tokenizing bandwidth and other innovative financial models.
Session Report (* deadline Monday 20 December) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

The IGF 2021 session of the Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity (DC3) focused on exploring ways to make alternative connectivity models (including community networks) financially sustainable and at the same time scalable and/or replicable. Session participants provided their viewpoints and shared experiences and good practices discussing the contributions to the 2021 DC3 Outcome, a collective volume dedicated to “Community Networks: Towards Sustainable Funding Models” that was launched during the session.

The session provided several presentations of case studies and best practices that were discussed in the book published as well as a discussion of funding models and financial sustainability of community networks.

The book on Community networks is a compilation of different viewpoints and over 80% of the contributors are female - but also showcased the diversity IGF opinions along with the diversity of Community Networks set up by practitioners for themselves.

Nico spoke about the success they have had with the Argentine Regulator. In the past Community Networks had struggled for many years to have a program that can route Universal Access funds to Community Networks and he discussed the success he had with the Argentine regulator in getting approval for UAS funding to be used exclusively for Community Networks. For small communities, they need a specific type of funds and these have been hard to get and so very important now that this avenue was set up for them. It is also the first time that cooperatives can get this seed funding .

Some of the risks are lack of experience with rural communities, and their experience in managing a community network could be a higher risk. Community Networks  are small operators compared to larger players and so less attractive to traditional courses of finance which have made them harder to finance.

Build awareness of the role of CNs in the area to make them more effective. One way of doing this is to run schools to teach people how to set up and operate a community network. That is one of the successes of groups such as Altermundi in training people and organizations.

Jane Coffin spoke about some of the innovative financing models for sustainability of community network and the importance of bringing connectivity to rural areas.

She also spoke about new innovations such as voucher-based systems and the ability to aggregate donors to create funding opportunities and is part of impact investment. The key here is that the people are not leaving the community and so need to find innovative ways of reaching them. She spoke about how many people have donated their time and capital to get community networks off the ground. The important thing is to change UAS to support these new models since the old funding models supported broken models so need to change things up,

The next set of speakers spoke about the different ways that Community networks were creating innovative ways to finance the networks either through vouchers, through tokens, or other types of community currencies. A type of voucher-based system was presented, where people could redeem tokens for data, for food, or receive tokens for recycling and composting.

This method was not only for funding the building of community networks but also for more sustainable networks. Environmental sustainability was also addressed. Community Networks are built in the mountains but then often damage the terrain so now there is a focus on how to build the networks without damaging the terrain and doing it in a more sustainable way.