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Community Networks: An experiment in bringing internet connectivity to the poor

The annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Mexico last week featured several of interesting discussions on community networks. In the annual report of the United Nations (UN) IGF Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity, community networks “rely on the active participation of local communities in the design, development, deployment, and management of the shared infrastructure as a common.” Luca Belli, the editor of this report, observes that “given that 4 billion people still lack access to the Internet, the traditional model of Internet access provision should not be necessarily considered as the most efficient one.” Global internet adoption rates are slowing down, and we are not on track to meet global connectivity goals. Looking at the data, many agree that the prevailing model of top-down regulated networks is failing to get internet connectivity to the poor. For this reason, it is interesting to study the bottom-up approach of community networks to see why the traditional approach isn’t working.

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