Community Networks Growing the Internet IETF

How Do We Connect Everyone to the Internet? An IETF 101 Technical Plenary

How do we connect everyone, everywhere, to the Internet? What role do “community networks” play in helping connect more people? How can we best use wireless spectrum and what are the issues with that? How can satellites fit into the picture? And what is the state of satellite technology? And what about the role of “space lasers”?

All that and more was the subject of yesterday’s featured panel at the Technical Plenary at IETF 101 in London.

Interested to learn more? Watch/listen to the Global Access to the Internet for All (GAIA) session TODAY (22 March) at 1:30pm UTC:

Organized by the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) and the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF), the panel was moderated by our Jane Coffin and included these speakers:

  • Leandro Navarro Moldes, Associate Professor, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (SLIDES)
  • Steve Song, Wireless Spectrum Research Associate, Network Startup Resource Center (SLIDES)
  • Jonathan Brewer, Consulting Engineer, Telco2 Limited (SLIDES)

You can watch the recording of the session at:

The session began with Leandro Navarro outlining how half the world is still not connected to the Internet and is not able to benefit from all the opportunities. He explored the reasons why, the challenges with business models, and the opportunities to improve the situation. He spoke about the different types of community networks and the need for small providers to cooperate and collaborate to be most effective.

Next Steve Song opened with the provocative question – do we care more about connecting refrigerators than poor people? He went on to talk about the impact of fiber optic connections in Africa – and then explained both the opportunities and challenges of using radio spectrum for communication. Steve discussed the economics and politics of spectrum allocation and finished looking at some of the upcoming next generation technologies. A key message: access diversity is critical!

Finally, Jonathan Brewer provided a view on satellite options for Internet access. He outlined typical orbits and latencies; spoke about different architectures and common deployment scenarios; and explained different satellite spectrum bands and then pros and cons. We learned about “rain fade” and other terms. He also offered three newer commercial ventures as examples of the exciting activities in the space sector.

After the panelists spoke, Jane opened the floor to questions. Attendees asked about the diversity of options, the need to include more people and regions, and more. And yes, there was a discussion about “space lasers” and how some of these new networks are building mesh networks based on using lasers between satellites.

It was an educational session that offered many ideas for how to connect the rest of the world.

If you would like to learn more and find out how to help:

Image credit: Stonehouse Photographic

Development Growing the Internet

Tackling the Digital Divide – Researching & Collaborating to Bring Everyone Online

The challenges we must overcome to bring the world’s offline population online should not be underestimated. A recent McKinsey report [“Offline and falling behind: Barriers to Internet adoption”] finds that, “More than 60 percent of the world’s population remains offline. Without removing crucial deterrents to Internet adoption, little will change—and more than 4 billion people may be left behind.”

To address some of these challenges, the networking research community are coalescing around a new research group in the Internet Research Task Force with the cute acronym GAIA — Global Access to the Internet for All. After its initial kickoff meeting at IETF 89 in London, the group is now hotly debating a charter for its work at present and the latest draft is available from its webpage. In addition to identifying challenges, building common understanding, raising awareness and fostering collaboration, the group have set themselves the ambitious goal of identifying ways to achieve a ten-fold reduction in Internet access costs especially in geographies and populations with low penetration.

Although still in formation, the group already have a couple of workshops planned, the first of which is later this month in Cambridge, England. On 20-21 October, the 2nd GAIA Meeting will focus on bringing together the research community, industry, and policy makers to discuss a 3-5 year research agenda. Discussions will focus on the challenges to GAIA as well as the different projects and deployments taking place and planned.

The Internet Society is proud to provide support for this workshop.

Arjuna Sathiaseelan, writing recently in the IETF Journal said, “The Internet has crossed new frontiers — access has gotten both faster and relatively cheaper, with novel applications and services being offered every day. As a result, today’s Internet represents a critical infrastructure enabling remote health care, education, employment, e-governance, digital economy, social networks, and more. As such, Internet access should be universal in terms of availability and ability to contribute to the wider community, thereby enabling true digital inclusion to all.” [“Researching Global Access to the Internet for All (GAIA)”, the IETF Journal, July 2014].

The second planned event is the 3rd GAIA Meeting, which will be co-located with the ACM DEV 5 conference on 4 December 2014. DEV 5 will be held at the Hilton San Jose hotel in San Jose, California.

If you have some research results or project plans to share or you’d just like to get involved in the discussion, the mailing list for GAIA is always open!