The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> LUCA BELLI: I see that Karla is the only one missing, and she will connect. Well, Karla and Jane are connecting, but fortunately, they are both in the second slot of panelists that we have today, so I think we can get started, as we already are ‑‑ I guess there will be another session after ours, so I think we have to be relatively strict with timing. So, I propose we get started.
Good morning to everyone. As many of you already know, my name is Luca Belli, a Professor at FGV Law School, and together with many of the friends that are here today, as one of the co‑founders of this IGF Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity.
The goal of today's session is to discuss community networks as human rights enablers. We have also prepared a brief report discussing these issues with some of you. Many of the people that are panelists today were co‑authors of this report that we will release in a couple of minutes. We will share the link. It is already on the IGF website. And so, we will share it in a couple of minutes in the chat.
Before we start, and before I give the floor to my colleague, Senka Hadzic, who will co‑moderate with me, I would first like to thank our distinguished panelists of today. Each of you has quite large biographies, and so I will let you introduce with the several hats you have. Just to quickly run through the stellar panel we have today, we will start with some introductory remarks from Ronaldo Neves de Moura, who is an ANATEL regulator. Then, we will have Raquel Renno with Article 19; Nicolas Echaniz from Altermundi; Sarbani Belur; and then Niels ten Oever, from the University of Amsterdam and also visiting professor here at FGV Law School; and Karla Prudencio from Rhizomatica; and last, but not least, Jane Coffin from Connect Humanity.
So, before passing the mic to Senko and then Ronaldo, I just wanted to spend a couple of minutes to introduce a bit so that everyone, both those that are onsite or that are following us online or that will see the recording understand a little bit the framing of today's session, what is our work. Of course, we are here to discuss community connectivity, and especially community networks, which are, as everyone already knows here, bottom‑up networks, crowdsourced by the local communities that build, manage, and develop these networks, and these local communities can be NGOs, can be inhabitants of a specific neighborhood, could be public administrations, could be small businesses, and usually are multi‑stakeholder cooperations and partnerships amongst these various actors.
And over the past years, we have issued several reports and we have dedicated a lot of sessions since 2016 to the various dimensions of community connectivity, be it technical dimensions, policy dimensions, governance dimensions, sustainability dimensions last year. So, to discuss how this kind of alternative and complementary connectivity strategy can positively contribute also to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as we are within the framework of a UN summit here at the IGF.
Now, we have discussed all these dimensions, and we have always, somehow, linked this to the human rights debate. But today, and this year, we really wanted to stress the connections between community networks and human rights, and really community networks as human rights enablers. Of course, this includes freedom of expression, access to information, free communication, which are the most natural fundamental rights to think about when you speak about ICT infrastructure, but there are also other rights, like self‑determination.
I have been a strong advocate of what I call network self‑determination, so the capacity of community to jointly build, develop network infrastructure, to use it as a commons, as a common good in order to freely seek in part and receive information and innovation. So, the fact that communities, thanks to this kind of new collective infrastructures, can co‑create the Internet, as my friend Nicolas would say, but also, they become protagonists of connectivity. They are not anymore in a dynamic of consumer and that (?) community and access, but of being producers. They also produce innovation, produce content, produce service, produce infrastructure. And they also have control. There is a strong digital sovereignty dimension of it, because they have control over the infrastructure, the services, the data. There is a strong informational self‑determination dimension, meaning they have control over personal data. They are not obliged to trade personal data to access to application has happened in very ‑‑ in a lot of developing countries, at least. I was in a previous session speaking about net neutrality and inter-openness, and we discussed a lot of these models that basically oblige poor people to trade personal data to access applications, and that is something that happens around the world. But when we start defending other options like community network, we are not obliged anymore to be in this kind of dynamic. It is not a dichotomy anymore, but we have more options, and indeed, very sustainable options.
Now, before giving the floor to Ronaldo, I just wanted to pass the mic to my friend and colleague, Senka, to provide a little bit of introduction of our work and the reports that we are issuing this year. And so, please, Senka, the floor is yours.
>> Senka Hadzic: Hi, everyone. I'm a researcher with the CyberBRICS Project, and together with Luca, I coordinate the Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity. Thank you all for joining. This Dynamic Coalition has started in 2016, and since then, each year there was some concrete official outcome, mostly in the form of reports, books, manuals, or completion of papers related to a specific theme. And some of these outcomes have, in fact, been used by policymakers and have really helped to place community networks on the map, for example, with regulators, as you will see in some of the presentations later today.
And this year, we had yet another official outcome, which is a report titled "Community Networks as Enablers for Human Rights." It has been edited by Luca and myself, and we have contributions from nine authors. It is basically a compilation of papers or chapters, one of which is a collective paper. It's a direct result of the collaborative effort of the DC3 members.
Some of the authors are here today. Well, they are all joining online today. And we'll unpack their contributions. The topic which chose this year actually aligns with one of the overall themes of this year's IGF, which is connecting people and safeguarding human rights. And yeah, we have contributions from civil society, from academia, community networks practitioners, also government representatives, so there are some very different viewpoints and aspects on the rights perspective of community networks.
Unfortunately, I do not have any physical copies here with me, but we will share the link later. You can get it from the DC3 page of the IGF website.
And yeah, as I said, some of the authors are here with us today, and with that, I will introduce our first speaker, Ronaldo Moura from the Brazilian Telecommunications Regulator, regulatory expert since 2009, holding several positions in the agency. Ronaldo writes about regulations, artificial intelligence, the Internet, and international affairs related to these themes. And in his talk, Ronaldo will tell us about ANATEL's activities related to promotion of community networks, both on a national level, but also when engaging with international bodies such as the ITU, and he will also highlight the relevant synergy between ANATEL's activities and the work of the DC3. Welcome, Ronaldo.
>> RONALDO MOURA: Thank you, Senka. Thank you, Luca. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening for the participants worldwide. I'm honored and happy to be on this panel. And many great people will talk after me, and I'll be brief to allow us all to hear them.
Well, I start with worrying consideration, that is not new. Recognizing community networks as an available communication tool and as an enabler of human rights is not yet common ground among the countries. It is a long and complex process, and the policies and regulatory approach vary a lot. But today I'd like to add a piece of optimism to this consideration. I'd like to point out a good but still ongoing example from Brazil.
In Brazil, the last decade corresponds to an expressive emergence of stakeholders like small and medium enterprises and new models of services provisional network arrangements. And that emergency coincides, provokes, and has been fed back by measures adopted by the National Telecommunication Agency ‑‑ ANATEL, the regulatory body ‑‑ and it includes a symmetric regulation with fewer obligations imposed on small operators and imposition of the big operators with significant market power to offer their network resources on an equal and transparent basis to the small and medium stakeholders. This course of regulatory actions is derived from the recognition that different models and stakeholders should be fostered to bridge the digital gap and promote better connectivity; the community networks model.
This was clear when in September of 2020, ANATEL and the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Brazil signed a Memorandum of Understanding concerning digital access development in which one of the objectives was support expansion and improvement of community networks as an access to support development of vulnerable populations inter alia. This was the starting point of a specific joint from ANATEL's technical staff and the Association for Progressive Communication ‑‑ APC. And it's worth highlighting that besides research and interviews with many stakeholders, the parts built their outcomes upon the work produced by the Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity, DC3, especially in the community network manual "How to Build the Internet Yourself." And taking the manual's premises into count, the MOU outcomes intend to point concrete paths to achieve such new infrastructures, governance, and business opportunities in Brazil, and it reveals a synergy and a line of continuity between this panel and ANATEL's first results.
The main outcomes delivered by APC to ANATEL in December 2021 were a policy brief ‑‑ English and Portuguese version ‑‑ consisting of a comprehensive analysis of the current scenario of community networks in Brazil, including a set of specific recommendations for the agenda improvements. And the community network's manual, should those be interested in implementing these networks in Brazil, followed by audiovisual guides.
Firstly, apart from disseminating information to the public, ANATEL officially sent the recommendations it other governmental bodies responsible for addressing part of them, like the Minister of Communications. Subsequently, the agency started an ongoing internal verification and analysis of the recommendations under its competencies. The premise adopted is that the current regime two (?) between community networks under rules of limited private service as a non‑commercial model should be retained.
However, another set of regulatory rules and actions should evolve to promote those networks that are indications of current regulatory reviews regarding spectrum use, competition, and even general rules for services. It is important to note that after that, ANATEL endorsed the conclusion that community networks' projects are eligible to be funded by financial resources from the Brazilian Universal Fund for Telecommunication Services. Furthermore, it pointed out that the fund's current framework includes programs developed by cooperatives and civil society organizations. It should include. This understanding is significant because the agency's a member of the managing board and has competencies related to the selection and monitoring of the projects.
Well, there were also steps at the international level of promotion of community networks. That's my last topic. Because it's worth noting that the recent Brazilian agenda to the International Telecommunication Union ‑‑ the United Nations specialized agency for ICTs ‑‑ included community networks, once the organization's supreme organization. The Conference of Plenipotentiary convened in 2022 in Bucharest, Romania. The outcomes of the conference correspond to the high‑level framework that should guide the organization's activities in the following years and bring recommendations to its member states and sector members.
Among the Brazilian propositions submitted to the PP '22, the one related towards Resolution 139 addressed the team under an original definition of complementary access networks and solutions. And the main objectives were to emphasize ITU's role in encouraging different business and regulatory models and to establish the role of ITU's members in creating an enabling environment.
It's possible to summarize this initiative as an effort to include community networks and other emerging models at the center of the ITU strategies to bridge the gap while persuading other stakeholders to take them into account.
During the conference, any advance to modify current ITU resolution depends mainly upon consensus by all member states, all present member states, and therefore, proposals are usually adjusted or vetoed during a series of negotiations as a result of the divergences of perspectives of the different countries and regions. In the case of this resolution ‑‑ ITU Resolution 139, the version that emerged from the PP '22 is not far apart from the Brazilian proposal, being, however, distinct in some of the language and the scope.
There is direct instruction to the Director of the ITU Development Bureau to support sharing national experiences and information, including telecommunications/ICTs complementary access networks and solutions.
Regarding the member states, they are now invited to consider facilitating an environment for sharing national experiences for bridging the digital divide, including telecommunications/ICTs, complementary access networks and solutions according to national regulations. In this way, new approaches of networks deployment and management became part of an instrument central to the international regime of expanding connectivity, and they may be at least necessarily considered in certain ITU development activities. It became a topic to be reflected upon by different countries as well.
Considering that inclusion of emerging teams in ITU resolutions is historically long and complex process, it is reasonable to consider that in this case, the team gained momentum and might be further developed in the following years.
And still being optimistic regarding the Brazilian case, an evolution to the next phase might go through public policies and regulation improvement on different grounds and advances related to funding projects, particularly from FST. And at the same time, progress in the international arena can feed back the Brazilian efforts in technical and strategic aspects. And should these extend coherent alignment of the movements can lead to concrete outcomes available to impact the Brazilian connectivity scenario and the rights of our users. So, that piece of optimism that I said that I wanted to bring to our discussions. And now I give back the floor to you, Senka and Luca. Thank you very much.
>> LUCA BELLI: Thank you very much, Ronaldo, for this excellent initial overview. I think there are a couple of points that really deserve to be highlighted. First is really very positive developments that we are seeing at the ITU. And this is a point we were already stressing on Monday during the session on the Internet Governance Forum, the fact that there are alternative approaches based on a different conception of understanding, also the potential of using a comments‑based approach to shape Internet governance and the evolution of the Internet is something that maybe it took a lot of time to make visible.
And those of us who have been working on community networks for the past decade or decades have struggled a lot to make them visible, and the IGF has been an incredible platform for us to discuss, to unite, to create synergies, but also to create very good connections and build bridges with regulators, like ANATEL, that was the first regulator to use in its own official website one of our outcomes, the Commission Network Manual, and then to start partnerships, also to advocate for it at the international level. And I think one has to give credit also to ANATEL for this incredible work it has been doing, not only at the regional level of ITU Americas, but the international level, becoming a strong proponent and advocate also for alternative and complementary strategies, which, indeed, should be seen as complementary, as a complement to bridge the gaps that other approaches may have left over the past decade.
Now I would like to give the floor to our second speaker, who is Raquel Renno from Article 19. She is Digital Program Officer at Article 19. She has been focusing on telecommunication regulation and also human rights and social impact of ICTs over the past 20 years. So, she is also one of the co‑authors of this year report. So, Raquel, please, the floor is yours, and thank you very much for being with us today.
>> RAQUEL RENNO: Thank you, Luca. Thank you very much for the invitation. And yes, I would like to start agreeing with Luca when he said that ANATEL has this leadership on the international level, especially on the ITU. I attend the ITU as a guest from ANATEL as a member of their delegation. And we can see that civil society is not very present there, also because it's not in the interests of member states to just, you know, have this multi‑stakeholder presence there. And so, this already shows the, well, the position of champion, no? Of ANATEL in terms of promoting alternative, complementary access solutions on the international level.
My approach is more on the international level. I know that we have people here in this panel with decades of experience on different grassroots initiatives, so I'm not going to spend time talking about it. But one thing that I would like to highlight is part of a research that I've done from, you know, starting in the '80s. So, I gathered some ITU documents from the '80s, where they were kind of analyzing or assessing the situation of the telecommunication worldwide, talking mostly about the telephone. And they already said ‑‑ it stated in the report ‑‑ how the developing countries were suffering way more than the developed countries, and this could lead to some humanitarian issues in the future, no, with disasters and when you have the need for basic emergency communications.
And in this same report a few years later, they knew that just a commercial service, no, just a private service wouldn't be able to solve all these issues because they focus different goals, no, they have different natures. So, I would like to connect that to the current situation of the Internet but also adding something that the telephone didn't have at the time, which is the capacity to create content. And when we say, "create content," we're also talking about media plurality, no, instead of the data gardens of what we have when we access the basic apps or zero‑rated services in a smartphone, no? So, although most of the people might not be interested in producing their own media content, we need to understand the relevance of having some groups and some communities producing it, no, and the right they have to organize and participate collectively, especially when those groups are at odds with the government. Some countries have minorities that are being challenged, are being chased, in many cases with violence. And sometimes, these groups are also the ones don't want to be in communication with any telecom groups. They are not interested in taking part of manifesting or organizing themselves using the traditional social media, because they are fighting social media, because of gender issues, for example, ethnical issues, language issues.
So, when we talk about complementary access solutions, that's what we're talking about. Not everyone ‑‑ actually, the minority might be interested in producing this content, but we have to take them into consideration, no?
So, we already talked about the relevance, and I think there are plenty of documents coming from the UN, UNESCO, even the industry, no, GSMA also mapped and show the relevance of being connected, no? And during the pandemic, then we can even add the right to health, no? Right to study, to look for work or work from home. I think this is kind of settled, so we know the relevance of connectivity.
What is still not solved yet ‑‑ and as I say, this is not something that we should point to one regulator, one industry, because it's not something that was created in the last years. This is something that is coming from a long time. That is, in the beginning, the Internet was a service that maybe the industry could offer to some. It was almost some curious things. But very fast, it changed. And now it is a very important way to communicate, but in both ways, no? Not only to receive information, but also to share information in different languages. And this is something that when we talk about tech autonomy, when we talk about media plurality, and I think that the next speakers are going to talk about it, it's key, no? So, it's not only ‑‑ even if the incumbent telecom companies came and offered Internet for free for all, this model of these products that they would offer might not be the product that these people want at all. So, this has to be taken into consideration. Of course, this is not discussed in the ITU level because I'm talking to a more content level, but it's important, no?
And we cannot ignore some intrinsic political issues between groups when we talk about inequality. So, it's not, when we talk about inclusion, sometimes we have the idea that there are people who are excluded and they want to be part of this market, which is not always true. They might be excluded because they want something else.
Also, what we have right now, some social media that are more important than others. Maybe in five or ten years, the scenario's going to be different. That's how the market works. But if we are limited to that, we have a limited understanding of what the Internet is and can offer, no? And it's, of course, expensive, no? The infrastructure deployment is expensive. So, the industry has to do that. When the private sector is responsible for that, the products are massified, no? This is basic math that industry will make.
And sometimes, what, as I say, it's not only a matter of what a regulator can do immediately, but this is part of what happened, for example, based on all the trend of privatizing infrastructure that happened in the '90s. And as a regulator right now, you cannot just, you know, change everything and start from scratch. So, what Ronaldo showed, the work with APC, the work, what APC does also with other countries, I think you start to say, okay, what can we do with what we have right now, no?
So, I think that's another thing that I think other panelists will mention is that besides this mismatch between understanding the issue as a very relevant issue in terms of human rights enabling, but then the solutions are still development and economically based. So, this is the first mismatch. But then, because of everything that happened, for example, with the pandemics, we have governments accelerating the digitalization of their service, basic service, service that are in need for people who are already in fragile situation, and these people don't have access, or they don't have decent access. So, you have this acceleration. And these people who were already excluded, then they might not ‑‑ they might, with time, have less than they used to have, like two or three years ago or before the pandemic, no?
So, basically, just to wrap up, it's ‑‑ well, part of the work we're trying to do is to work with governments and industry and other stakeholders to recognize that the current business model are not contributing to meaningful and universal connectivity, and they roll in these plans. They have to be well measured, no?
And also, the relevance of recognizing the urgency to achieve universal connectivity to all people, not only consumers and the ones who can pay, no? So, it is important to allow the development of diverse technologies for service providers, then championing one size fits all technological solutions, and consider the roles of small community and non‑profit operators in providing this complementary connectivity, especially for rural areas, Indigenous People, minorities of all kind, people who do not participate or do not want to participate in the formal economy. So, that's my train of thought. Thank you very much.
>> Senka Hadzic: Thank you Raquel for the insights. Our next speaker comes from a grassroots movement. Nicolas Echaniz is with Altermundi and is the Project Manager and will share his thoughts on the right to co‑create the Internet.
>> NICOLAS ECHANIZ: Hello, everyone. Thanks for having me. Just to clarify, I am not the current President of Altermundi, but yes, I am one of its founders. One thing I wanted to talk about is we are used to talking about community networks as a complement to mainstream connectivity, like considering mainstream connectivity is what we want, but we cannot get this everywhere, so we are left with community networks as an alternative. I think that we need to turn this around, the Internet that we now have, which is mostly under control of these mainstream connectivity companies and information silos.
And, to summarize, a small number of monopolies or oligopolies are in control of what the Internet is right now. And I think that community networks should be considered more as a beacon and as a source of inspiration and also should be considered big‑scale solution, not a small‑scale solution, like if we consider the amount of people that live in rural areas in the world and the amount of people that live in different settlements that are not usually receiving service from commercial operators, this is roughly half of the world. And so, half of the world would benefit from community networks. That's not small scale.
And I bring this up because in the, I would say like the important stage of the ITU, we usually hear the voices of government and the industry, and there is very little space for the people, the people itself, to have community networks represented there.
I was listening at the ANATEL presentation, and there was also from our regulator from the Entercom regulator, there was a presentation regarding community networks in the last ITU summit, and we wrote to our representatives to ask, what was the document that you presented? What was the content? And what are the ideas? We want to participate. We want to share our knowledge and our work.
And we know that at the national level, our movement is considered. And in fact, Argentina is, as far as I know, is the first country that has created a program that uses money from universal service funds to fund community network initiatives. And this was mostly due to the work of community networks here in Argentina. But at an international level, I think that it would be very interesting if the regulators would bring with them the community representatives to talk in first person in such scenarios.
Then there's the ‑‑ another thing I think we need to consider is, when we talk about how many people is still unconnected, we sometimes see people from government talking about numbers provided by the mobile connectivity industry, and this creates a scenario that is not realistic, does not really talk about meaningful connectivity. Like Ronaldo was saying, if you cannot be a content provider or a content creator, you cannot even work from your home correctly using only mobile connectivity. Mobile connectivity is usually limited inside people's homes. It's not symmetrical. It provides zero rating for some services, but then traffic is limited, both in quantity and time for using it. So, I wouldn't say that mobile connectivity is at all ‑‑ is meaningful connectivity at all. I actually think that it creates a second‑class digital citizenship that we should avoid.
Then, I think that what we do need is more programs like the program here in Argentina funding community networks, but we also need to understand that community networks are not a standard operator, and programs designed by governments need to understand this. Usually, programs designed by the government are designed on an on‑demand basis, like, they suppose that operators will come to the regulator asking for money for the networks through the programs they create. But community networks are operated by people, by communities, by organizations from the civil society that are not operators that are part of the standard ecosystem.
So, for example, right now here in Argentina, we, Altermundi, is working with 15 communities from different provinces in the country, helping them take the first steps in community connectivity, and this one‑year program ends with the communities presenting projects to be funded by the intercom, by the regulator. But none of these ‑‑ or maybe one of these 15 organizations would have done this if it hadn't been through the help Altermundi is bringing. And we think this shouldn't be done by an NGO like, in our case, or I mean, we could work with the government, of course, in setting up such programs, but this needs to be done by the hundreds and the thousands of communities, not for 10 or 15 like we are doing now. And we cannot do this unless we work together with the government.
So, I think that after many, many years of working with community networks, bringing them forward, making the world understand that we exist, that we are not only an alternative, but a beacon of inspiration, I believe that the next stage has to be related to community networks working together with the governments. And that's my main takeout for this.
>> LUCA BELLI: Thank you very much, Nico, for these very insightful remarks and for sharing the experience of Altermundi, indeed is one of the best practices we have at the international level and really also explains us that, yes, of course, the first huge barrier we have is to make these kinds of experiences visible. Then we have another huge barrier that we have that is to convince regulators and other stakeholders that these experiences are not a threat but should be actually facilitated.
And then we have another final barrier that is try to define ‑‑ try to work together on how to facilitate these experiences in the best possible way. And it not only comes to funding, which, of course, is essential, but also how to organize, how to structure properly a program that can make these a very viable and also easy‑to‑implement alternative.
To have some further comments on this, but switching of continent, we have Sarbani Belur, Regional Coordinator at APC and also has been working a lot both from an academic perspective and also on the field with community networks over the past years. So, please, Sarbani, the floor is yours.
And just before giving you the floor ‑‑ sorry ‑‑ to remind all of the speakers to please try to stick into six or seven minutes. And after Sarbani, we will have a brief moment for comments or questions from the participants. So, if you either want to leave them in the chat or raise your ‑‑ leave your name in the chat, if you want to speak, or if you are onsite, tell Senka that you would want to make a comment right after Sarbani. So, Sarbani, please, the floor is yours.
>> Sarbani BELUR: Hello, everyone. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this panel. It's seating community networks to grow is a passion of mine, and I'm being given that facilitated by APC, and I am the Regional Coordinator.
So, the thing we have with the connectivity or connecting the unconnected is that the question of whose perspective of connectivity? Are we trying to connect the unconnected, or the unconnected are trying to connect themselves? So, there is this dilemma that is always going on in our minds, and we go ahead and connect these unconnected villages or locations in the different parts of the globe.
Now, one of the important themes that come up in these discussions is that the telecom operators usually do not go into these remote rural villages because they don't find it as a lucrative business model for themselves, and it is in some cases, like in the Indian case, what we see is that the fiber, the optical fiber is terminated at the mouth of the village, you know, at the entrance of the village, and it doesn't enter into the village just because there is no business model for the telecom operator.
Now, that is, again, at that juncture, we often have this discussion with the communities, that the communities have now given up on Internet connectivity. They don't want to have Internet connectivity, but they do want to have local national networks enabled, which can give them the benefit of all the aspects that they can get in the Internet or the online connectivity. And one of the other reasons that they state as one of the reasons why they want the offline mesh network is that they are being illiterate, not being digitally savvy, they found it very difficult to place themselves in the digital world just suddenly. If you give them connectivity, they find themselves very difficult to be in the digital world because they encounter problems with digital privacy, security issues, and things of that sort.
So, along with APC funding, we have seated quite a few community networks in the Asian context wherein we have most of the networks are actually networks that are made based on the needs of the community. Like, one of the networks; I can give you an example of one of the networks that I helped to grow.
In a five‑minutes drive from Mumbai, they wanted connectivity only at one location for the enablement of the government services. So, we enabled it from a cellular router, and the rest of the network is an offline mesh network. The empowered banking correspondent who enables the banking services for the people for that one‑point connectivity, online connectivity for a similar outcome.
In another community network in India, the entire network for five years was an offline mesh net, wherein they explored the option of local service enablement, or community video is one such functionality that they have gotten. So, you see that the reliance on this Internet is slowly becoming ‑‑ of course, it is very important for the people in these remote villages, more so by the COVID, but the relevance is slowly now moving towards a rights‑based approach, where they say that, okay, if Internet is not there, let us at least have an offline mesh network. And many of the communities are coming up now with this, that let us have community network which is an offline mesh network, where we can have a language repository, we can have a local knowledge repost actually, we can have a community video, everything.
So, I think this is what we would like to see in the distant future, that even if there is no connectivity being enabled, community networks will surely have one form or other of solution for enabling connectivity. So, I hope I have stuck to my five minutes time. Thank you.
>> LUCA BELLI: All right. So, let's see if we have any questions in the chat. I'm scrolling down. I think that if any of the participants have questions, you can include them here. I think that Adriana wanted to provide a comment or a question. And if there is also anyone else so site willing to provide questions or comments, reach out to Senka. From here, unfortunately, I cannot see the room at the IGF venue, so please reach out to Senka, who has a mic. And now I will give the floor for quick comments to Adriana Labardini.
>> ADRIANA LABARDINI: Thank you and congratulations for the diverse panel and very relevant for the future of societies and democracies. Just one question, mainly to Mr. Ronaldo Moura in Brazil, but for any other frameworks as well.
As we all know, community networks regimes, those of global health may have different forms, not only different registration requirement or license, but a different nature. In Mexico, for instance, they are deemed as private networks. They do not have the obligation to interconnect, but they do have the right to interconnect. And certainly, one of the main purposes of community networks is to access Internet and be able to negotiate wholesale Internet, and not retail, because otherwise, it would be unaffordable.
So, it is important, and I am so happy to hear about this support from ANATEL in community networks and access to FST resources, because large commercial operators, even with subsidies, often abandon these projects because the operating expenses in rural areas is not affordable for them. And so, even with universal service funds, they drop the connectivity in those areas.
But we understand that there was a rulemaking process ‑‑ Consultation 41 in ANATEL ‑‑ and that I just want to ask it, because I don't know exactly the scope of it ‑‑ that, apparently, was intending to limit the possibility of access to Internet for SLPs. And so, if they will no longer be allowed to provide Internet access, well, they would ‑‑ I mean, all community networks would die in Brazil and elsewhere. So, I wanted to ask whether with this new policy and support for community networks, I understand this consultation would no longer ‑‑ or this new rule would no longer be enforced or approved, because I cannot understand how an SLP regime could cope with prohibiting an Internet access. That's all. If there are others here in the audience and the panel members, other regimes, maybe in Argentina, that allow full‑fledged interconnection and full‑fledged services for community networks, not only Wi‑Fi‑based, it would be very interesting to hear about those experiences. Thank you.
>> LUCA BELLI: Thank you very much, Adriana, for this. Maybe a quick reply from Ronaldo and then we can go straight to the next panelist, Glenn.
>> RONALDO MOURA: Thank you, Adriana. I think that you raised a very relevant point in the ongoing discussion, and that's why I was saying about how the progress in the international arena can feed back the Brazilian efforts.
But internally in Brazil, the true processes, the process of building the international proposals ‑‑ for example, this proposal to Resolution 139 ‑‑ and the regulatory process ‑‑ the process to have a new regulation ‑‑ they are not necessarily connected. And so, it doesn't mean ‑‑ what I'm saying, it doesn't mean that after the new Resolution 139, the other regulatory process should stop. No. It continues. It's under discussion.
I think that, if I'm not wrong, the public consultation is issue over, and the proposition is, as I understand, is to keep the community networks under, in these aspects, under the regime as the current regime, as a non‑commercial model and then the SLP, as you said. So, they wouldn't have the advantages, for example. In this way, I agree with you, they wouldn't have the advantage, for example, of the small and medium operators. And that's the debate that I think that the agency should consider in this moment. And that's why it's very important to have a multi‑stakeholder debate, even after the public consultation, and that's something traditional in the agency. The agency is usually open even after public consultation to receive more inputs. You got the point. You got the main point in this discussion. The issue will be considered fully in the regulatory process to have effective rules and not under reasonable limits.
>> LUCA BELLI: Thank you very much, Ronaldo. And indeed, we all know that participation and multistakeholderism are embedded within the DNA of Brazilian digital policy‑making, so we all look forward to the next phases of this participatory process to try maybe even to help and positively impact with best practices this evolving discussion.
Now I would like to give the floor to our next speaker, a good friend, Glenn McKnight from IEEE. He has been with us for many years, and he has been also working a lot with the electrical and engineering parts of networking. So, please, Glenn, the floor is yours to provide your perspective.
>> GLENN McKNIGHT: Great. Thank you, everybody. So, did you want me to do my slide show now?
>> LUCA BELLI: Yeah, sure. I would only remind all of the panelists to please stick into the six or seven minutes. Thank you very much.
>> GLENN McKNIGHT: Okay. I'm disabled, so I need access to share my slides.
>> LUCA BELLI: So, I would like to ask the technical assistance to provide, to the IGF host to provide access to the share screen, exactly. We are seeing this now. Thank you.
>> GLENN McKNIGHT: Okay, great. Thank you. Thank you. And it's so great to see all of you. I saw Sarbani recently at the APNEC event in Singapore. It was great to see you and your students. This is going to be very quick.
I want to give you an overview, particularly of the IEEE Smart Village. This is a project that we started, and in fact, I think I met Adriana back over ten years ago in Washington when the IEEE got together with the UN foundation, and what we did was very invited the technical people with IEEE, who is trying to solve these humanitarian problems, with the humanitarian organizations. It was an interesting experience, but let me carry on.
So, basically, IEEE, for the benefit of everyone, it's about 450,000 members. It's the largest professional membership organization in the world. I'm a member of IEEE, but also IEEE Canada and Section 7, which is the Toronto chapter. So, we're broken into chapters around the world, and the fastest growing chapters are actually in India and China.
So, let me emphasize our model. It's advancing technology for humanity. And as I alluded to a little while ago, we came together over ten years ago, and it was called the IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge. And we started this process, and I was part of one committee on the electrification issue coming up with a prototype. And what we did is we ‑‑ our first project was in Haiti, and it was in consultation with the local community, and it was called Sirona Cares Solar Trailer. And that has branched off to many other locations. So, again, just to emphasize what our interest was, as we saw the entire set of Sustainable Development Goals. And we said, "What can we tackle?" And we've boiled it down to three things: Electrical connectivity, which was a prototype of one kilowatt system; community connectivity projects; and individual/patient records.
So, at the core of our project, we were looking at that magic that happens when you have proper community consultation, local partnerships, local control and ownership, and that really gets, in essence, at the heart of what human rights are.
So, again, the core principle of the IEEE Smart Villages is the dignity of our local partners in communities who own, control ‑‑ who "own," not "won," ‑‑ own, control and work in partnership with the volunteers of the IEEE, and they are local partners with the local chapters in sections that we have. And in essence, what we first started with is providing local power. These small‑scale, off‑the‑grid electrical solutions provide the critical first step in empowering the community to enable them to have Internet connectivity. If you do not have power, obviously, you're not going to have connectivity, so that's in essence a first step in the process.
And what's very important, as you all know, the cost of charging a cell phone is extremely expensive in many parts of the world. So, having the ability to access and ability to charge your cell phone at a low price from your local provider is critical. And also, the power that's provided is in some cases, computer labs and obviously needing computer service.
Quickly, 87 projects, 18 countries. And we're constantly improving the system. It's not like it came off the shelf. It has to adapt. We had to look at ways of dealing with many issues, including in terms of having the batteries sustain itself in terms of the heat situation. We had to deal with local challenges, as fundamental as theft or people destroying the equipment and having the right network and the right partner. Sometimes they're not the right partners at the beginning.
So, one of the interesting projects ‑‑ an associate who actually started this project in the Galapagos Islands, he started an intranet ‑‑ and again, it started with power ‑‑ but it has branched off into a program that benefit eco‑tourism as well. It's a local project that is providing Internet access in the community. Without this, funding support, it would not have happened. I want to mention, this is not just an organization that is dictated. It funnels down to the many societies that exist within IEEE. As you can see from PES, reaches of the Reliability Society. There are many subcommittees as well, but it is a combination of not only the main organization supporting this, but it's also bottom‑up volunteers, students who are getting involved in local projects. So, I just wanted to share with you some very quick links that you can contact and get more details on the projects that are working away. Contact the people who are the leads on them. And if you want to get more information about Smart Villages, please contact Mike Wilson. We've supplied the email there. Okay? That's it. Very quick.
>> Senka Hadzic: Thank you, Glenn. In the context of IEEE, it's worth mentioning the Connect the Unconnected challenge from last year. Altermundi won the community enablement category this year. Last year, Sarbani's project also won in the technical concept category. So, it's great to see that community networks are also being increasingly recognized as complementary axis solutions, even by these very technical bodies, such as the IEEE.
But, yeah, now back to the human rights aspect. Our next speaker is Niels ten Oever from the critical infrastructure lab and researcher at the University of Amsterdam. His research is about how norms such as human rights get inscribed and subverted in communication infrastructures through their transnational governance. Over to you, Niels.
>> NIELS TEN OEVER: Thank you so much, Senka, and actually this whole Dynamic Coalition for continuing the important work, for instance, the work on the previous community network books. It really helps us think through Internet networks.
Many of us think that the Internet started with devices like this, the PDP11. Oh, let me quickly flick off that background so that some of the devices I have here can actually be seen here. No background. Let's see if it works. Yes. Here we've got a model of the PDP11, which was one of the computers that was first interconnected via the Internet. But if we think a bit longer about networks, then we know that, actually, early connect networks connected via devices like this.
And then, relatively quickly, it developed to laptops, mobile phones. But actually, now, many devices in the world ‑‑ the majority ‑‑ more look like this, or even smaller sensors that are connected. And this brings us to questions that were already asked in the McBride Report of the "Many Voices One World" that asks, who owns the means of production and the means of communication, so who can also control the content and the discussions that are held over that? And I really like the comment made by Sarbani that interconnectivity, but also the lack thereof, is playing a more important role in the development of new networks.
And as this is shown in her discussion of telegraph networks, that connectivity and disconnectivity is actually not a radical shift but is a continuous spectrum that is explored in transcontinental networks and one we're currently seeing with filtering going on in China and Russia, but also in Europe, data localization laws, and also the practicing in community networks is actually exploring of power differentials within the network.
Because as Laura DeNardis tells us that we have the Internet in everything and it becomes a network without off switch. So, if we can't switch off the end devices, then the control position might, indeed, be in the network, as it was before the Internet, when it was still telecommunications networks.
And what is the problem is that it's actually been the user that has been excommunicated from the network, and owning and operating these networks by ourselves might actually provide more control to users.
But, as the speaker from Altermundi said, operating these networks takes a lot of money, knowledge, and expertise, and that might actually be off loading something on citizens that they not have the capacity or the sustainability to sustain such a complex infrastructure.
So, the question is, do new technologies, such as private 5G networks, actually offer cheaper technology and cheaper manners of configuration to deploy new networks? So, for over a decade, people running community networks have asked for spectrum allocation. But now, with the alignment of the interests of network operators, equipment providers, and even service providers in the proliferation of private 5G networks, you see that the interests are colliding, and possibly we do not need to emulate telco networks but can run much smaller networks via microcells with cheaper networks through, because the more modularization of telecommunication networks.
So, I think whereas the Internet for a long time was the newest kid on the block and was giving us all these possibilities through Wi‑Fi, et cetera, we're now seeing that the Internet is kind of starting to show its age. So, if we want to look to the future, we might need to look at the past of telecommunication networks and how we can engrain more control in them but also provide more configuration possibilities for users without having them very hard to operate.
Luckily, we're seeing that increasingly networks are running themselves, and hopefully, will take away both time and resources for communities that they need to run these networks, but also might provide possibilities of ownership and configurability to these communities with this new iteration of telecommunication infrastructures. But that only works if we manage to include the voice and the needs of the end users in the design of these new communication imaginaries. And for that, opportunities such as this in the IGF are extremely important, so I'm really happy for the organization of this fora and this possibility to talk about it. Thanks so much.
>> LUCA BELLI: Thank you very much, Niels. And now we have our last two panelists, Karla and Jane. So, first, we go to Karla Prudencio who works with Rhizomatica and also has been working with us in this coalition for a lot of years. So, please, Karla, the floor is yours.
>> KARLA PRUDENCIO: Thank you so much for the invitation. I'm so happy to be here. And I think everyone has talked about really interesting points, and I do not want to be repetitive about these policy issues that we need to change, but I want to start thinking about, like, some of the narratives that we are talking about when we talk about community networks and also when we talk about this relationship between access and human rights.
At this point, I think we need to step back a little bit and to think really well about these narratives behind the goal of connecting humanity to enable human rights.
First, I think we always assume that connectivity is always preferable to disconnection, and this can lead to really harmful assumptions, because different means of achieving this connectivity seems to not matter at all. And so, we are always thinking that the goal of access, like once that the goal of access is reached, we need to do something else. But as Nicolas Echaniz was saying, different ways of connecting people has different impact on how they can exercise their human rights. So, actually, community networks shouldn't be, like, seen as something complementary, but something different that can enable different ways of protecting human rights, which are not achieved with other kind of community connectivity, as you were saying. Like, when we have these net neutrality issues or problems with data protection or surveillance, right?
So, I think in this narrative, when connectivity's perceived as an end unto itself, rather than a facilitator or other to other more important things, we have a problem. We usually forget that connectivity should be this enabler for human rights, which means that access should not be breached by any means and without thinking about the consequence.
And this leads me to another false narrative that we usually have or we usually repeat in these kinds of panels; that is, like, being access something that we need to achieve. It's equally desired for everyone, and it will necessarily lead to something good. Actually, the very classification of unconnected or these disconnected people tells us quite a bit. There are a lot of samples that these people are completely different. We are referring, actually, to nearly the half of the world's population, and we don't usually talk about these different geographies, cultures, and day‑to‑day realities. Among those billion people, of course, there are many who want to be connected, but they are not a homogeneous group of people, and we need to take this into account. And I think community networks has that potential, that they can ‑‑ well, these kinds of networks can actually work with these communities and with their differences and with their local realities, which is something really, really important when we talk about this, like to end with the digital gap.
Also, I think we, in this kind of trying to challenge the narratives, we need to start thinking, get, like to step back and think also, like the multiple hazards or risk that we face with connectivity. And like we as connected people and that we are talking here, we have, of course, enormous benefits, but also we are facing a lot of risk at the Internet, for example surveillance, data protection, privacy, a lot of these human rights that could be harmed when we go online. So, I think we really need to start talking more about this risk and how we will manage them.
The reality today ‑‑ and everyone has it ‑‑ is that, like, a few companies own the upper and the lower layers of the Internet, and we have really, like, an unprecedented centralization of power and control. And it's also true, not only for the companies, but also that governments around the world are using these digital communications to monitor and surveil their people. So, when we talk about connectivity and access, we need to be prepared to face this risk, and we need to find different models that are, like, more suitable to be facing this risk.
And I think it's really important to start thinking of connectivity as which models can really be beneficial for human rights, because we have some models that are not. So, access shouldn't be the end unto itself, but we need to find which kind of access is really important for enabling these human rights. So, I hope I stick in the time, but thank you.
>> Senka Hadzic: Thank you, Karla. Thank you for this interesting insight on, let's say the right to disconnect. We have ten minutes left. Our last speaker is Jane Coffin. I think Jane could give some ‑‑ well, I will leave the concluding remarks to Luca, but maybe if Jane can wrap up the session in, like, five minutes. Thanks.
>> JANE COFFIN: Absolutely. And what a great panel. And I'm very honored to be here today. Hello to many colleagues and friends. And I want to give a shout‑out to ANATEL, of course, and to the Mexico government, the Kenyan government, and others that are looking at creating a better regulatory frameworks that include community networks. So, thank you, Ronaldo, for all the work you're doing, and others that we know, like Roberto, too, who's in the ITU context.
And starting with that, from the governmental perspective, it really is a multi‑stakeholder approach that's going to get us to having more networks of diverse sizes and diverse types. And so, we've seen that the current market solutions that many people believe will solve all of our connectivity problems have not. I do a lot of work around the world and I'm doing a lot of work right now in the United States, and I can tell you, the market is not solving our connectivity problem. I don't want to be negative. I just want to say that this means that we need to bring in alternative ways of looking at community networks as key partners in the connectivity space and municipal networks and other types of locally owned, operated, and managed networks. That means we're going to have to take a look and take care, as Sarbani, Raquel, and others, and Karla have said, take great care with how we bring in connectivity in certain communities, whether they want it or not, how the content is brought in and how the communities can be impacted by it is very important. But we need to look at different regulatory models, as Ronaldo pointed out, but also Adriana, with respect to spectrum, universal service, licensing, and financing.
These are different types of markets that we're looking at. A local access network in a local community, some say "last mile" ‑‑ those last mile networks, if they're community or municipal networks, are very different. They're going to be community‑led ‑‑ cheaper equipment. Glenn brought in some different models that the IEEE's working on ‑‑ and different ways of working and managing and governing those, and more accountability to the local community in those models. So, you wouldn't take the same approach to the current market that the bigger telcos have as you would for the community networks, and particularly on the financing side. And there's a panel tomorrow on this early on the financing of community and last mile networks.
It's very important to think of deconstructing the current models that are used for financing community networks ‑‑ I mean, sorry, big networks ‑‑ and deconstructing that for community networks and municipal networks so that there's access to capital.
Nico had mentioned that there's the very important point about alternative ‑‑ the word "alternative," and "additional," what came to my mind when you're talking about community networks. He's right. And the more we look at this and the more we pull apart the fact of community networks, they can work closely in communities and also work with middle mile networks, they're working with governments, they're working with a variety of community‑led organizations also, the APC types and the Internet Society, Connect Humanity, my organization now. It really does take a different approach to building out more connectivity, because as I've said, the market and the current regulatory regimes haven't solved all those problems. It's very important to take a look at that.
And Adriana, who's on this panel as well, has seen this very much in Mexico where social purpose licensing came in and organizations like Rise America have been doing work with the Mexican government. And I'm here that Kenya has opened up their licensing regime and brought in community networks and is looking at universal service funding.
So, I just want to say as sort of a wrap‑up, we have made immense progress. And thank you to Luca and Nico Echaniz, for having created the DC3 with this huge community, because you have made a big difference through the IGF process in influencing government, working with some of the private sector, working with the civil society and other organizations promoting human rights, because we're talking about inclusion, digital equity and digital inclusion. And community‑led networks, owned and operated, whether you're calling them community connectivity providers, community networks, municipal networks, whatever they are, these are changing the way we look at inclusion, connectivity, and it's really helping us change the game, and that means everything from the regulatory policy side to how we finance and how we bring in more inclusion. I'm going to stop speaking right now so that we can ‑‑ so Luca can wrap up. But I think it's very important and I didn't want to leave out Niels for the great work he's doing on human rights, to move things forward from the technical space, because we do have to work with the Internet community. And as the Internet is a network of networks, those networks of networks have different governance models. They're not all going to be the same. So that means that we're going to have to find some unique and boutique solutions through our work with community and municipal‑type networks.
So, thank you very much. This was interesting to listen to and to hear all of these different perspectives, but let's go forward from, I guess if there's a recommendation I could throw out, let's be creative in we're looking at the regulatory policy financing options, and alternative networks are a good thing. They are complementary, but they are also very important because they're different. Thank you very much.
>> LUCA BELLI: All right. We are almost at the end of our time, and also, thank you very much to Karla and Jane for having provided ‑‑ to having been explicitly and specifically in time, not only for having provided very good inputs and comments through discussion, but also for having respected the time. We still have actually four minutes. So, if we have any comments or final question or final remarks. I see that here we have some comments in the chat. It's more about a lot of food for thought that we have.
I think that as we do not have any explicit questions in the chat, and I guess not even from the floor at the IGF, it may be already time to wrap up, as we only have two minutes left in this moment. So, I would really like to stress a couple of key elements that emerged from the discussion of today. First, although we have been working a lot and we have been quite successful over the past eight years, we still have a lot to do. There is still a lot of work that can be done to make this initiative more visible, to make, also to stimulate a change in paradigm, considering connectivity ‑‑ when we speak about connectivity as an enabler of human rights, really giving concrete example of what this means in practice. And I really like what Karla was mentioning, that many of the models of connectivity we have, they may not correspond to this logic, and it is essential to be critical and objective about this. I really like what Jane was mentioning about the need also to understand the limits of the traditional mainstream models we have. And we have been writing a lot about this.
I, myself, one of the first things that I say to students when I speak about community network is that if there is a technical definition of market failure areas, it is because the market fails to connect specific type of areas where there is no return on investment. And so, if we want people living in those areas to be the protagonist of their digital evolution, the protagonist of connectivity, to allow those people to have more opportunity in life, to enjoy a right to work, a right to communication, to have better privacy. Again, that is a point that is severely underevaluated.
But the fact that we are switching towards models where connectivity services, even hardware, is paid by indiscriminate collection of personal data, rather than with money, that is something that can create enormous negative externalities and enormous distortion on how our societies are governed and the kind of sustainability that we have, not only at the level of connectivity, but at the social level.
So, I think we have still a lot of work to do. And luckily, a lot of people here are very happy to work a lot and to do a lot of nice projects together. So, I would like to thank a lot all the participants and also especially my co‑moderator, Senka, for the excellent work with yet another excellent session.
We have shared already the link to this year reports on community networks as enablers of human rights. It is also, of course, available on the DC3 page of the IGF website and will be soon available also on the DC3 website, comconnectivity.org. Thank you very much to everyone and have an excellent IGF 2022. Ciao ciao. See you next year.