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

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.

Community Networks Growing the Internet

Indigenous Connectivity Summit Policy Recommendations: Helping Policymakers Make Inclusive Decisions

As billions of us move into self-isolation, one thing is crystal clear: Internet access is critical. If anyone of us took it for granted before, COVID-19 has changed everything and rocketed the world into a new era. So it’s even more critical we build an Internet for everyone.

But we’ll only get there if we bring more diversity to the table when it comes to building infrastructure, developing sound policy, and creating the communities needed.

A lot of our work involves bringing people together. Network operators, policymakers, advocates, community members, and more. That’s because the Internet is built by people, and new ways to bring infrastructure to the world only come from what can happen when people come together.

In 2019, the Internet Society held the third annual Indigenous Connectivity Summit (ICS) in Hilo, Hawai’i.

Among the delegates were five Indigenous advocates from across North America who trained to become 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit Policy Advisors.

Based on conversation and outcomes from the Summit, they developed a set of recommendations to help policymakers in the United States and Canada make more inclusive decisions. These recommendations build on those developed at the previous Summits in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Inuvik, Northwest Territories.

These recommendations were then discussed and agreed on by everyone at the 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit. Collaboration at its best.

We would like your help on getting them out. Please help make your local policymakers aware they’re out there. Share them on social media, raise them in meetings, include them in reports, and more:

2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit Policy Recommendations

You can also find the full report from the 2019 Summit here, detailing the sessions and conversations held over the two-day event.

Group photo of the Pu’uhonua O Waimanalo Internet Society training session on Oahu © Elyse Butler

Community Networks Growing the Internet

‘These Are Our First Roadways’: Internet Access and Self-Determination in Pu’uhonua O Waimanalo

The establishment of Pu‘uhonua o Waimānalo in 1994 was a significant milestone in the native Hawaiian movement to regain independence from the United States, which overthrew its kingdom in 1893. The United States formally acknowledged its role in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in a law adopted by Congress in 1993 known as the Apology Resolution. A quarter of a century later, the Nation of Hawai’i is levelling up with a new effort in the push for sovereignty: community-led Internet access.

The Nation of Hawai’i is excitedly gearing up for the upcoming build and launch of Hawai’i’s first independent community broadband network in our village of Pu`uhonua O Waimanalo on the island of O’ahu.

As an early adopter of the Internet, the Nation of Hawai’i quickly recognized its potential to support sovereignty and self-determination efforts.

In 1995, the Nation of Hawai’i launched as a way to share its history and updates about current initiatives with the world. The website housed extensive primary-source historical documents, including the constitutions and treaties of the Hawaiian Kingdom. It hoped that by providing access to lesser known parts of history, Hawaiians and supporters around the world could learn and make up their own minds about the true status of Hawai’i as an independent country under occupation.

The vision of our village and Nation still holds true in 2019: to achieve self-determination and self-sufficiency, with a harmonious balance of traditional Hawaiian practices and innovative modern technologies.

Self-determination means a lot of different things to different Indigenous groups and in Hawai’i and across North America. For Nation of Hawai’i, it’s about people having the right to control their own political, economic, social, and cultural futures, free of any outside jurisdictions. Just like it did 25 years ago, the Internet still plays a vital role in that goal.

Access to the Internet also gives us opportunities to explore and engage with the world outside of our oppression – and the limited views of what we were taught. It allows us the freedom to find the solutions we need to ensure a prosperous future for our people.

The Internet also enhances our communication, which is essential to connecting our people within and outside of Pu‘uhonua o Waimānalo to resources. Communication is one of the three main pillars – along with transportation and energy – that comprise the hallmark of sovereignty in the 21st century: connectivity. In order for our sovereign Nation to evolve independently, it is critical that we have control over our connectivity. We consider this national infrastructure, and in many ways, these are our first roadways.

The community network project is very important to helping us achieve our goal of total independence. We currently have some Internet service in our village but it is slow and expensive. Most residents and visitors use data from our cell phones and hot spots to use the Internet, which lags and is unreliable. Having a community-run broadband network will greatly impact our village and the surrounding community because we’ve never had affordable and reliable access to the Internet and the limitless opportunities it can provide.

Having our community become its own Internet provider will generate job opportunities for our people, and also help us build a self-sustaining solution to create more independence for our Nation.

Although the community network project isn’t due to launch until the hands-on technical training immediately after the 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit in Hilo, Hawai’i this November, it is already a success. The Internet Society’s training program is creating real excitement in the community and already linking us to unbelievable resources and partnerships.

I believe that once our network goes online, the impacts will be immediately amplified throughout our village. For instance, our video teleconference meetings with community network project partners will be more productive without lagging problems. But the benefits will go even further when you consider that our kids will no longer need to travel outside the community to find a McDonalds or Starbucks with Internet access to finish their school projects.

With the gracious support of the Internet Society and all of their resources, this project is catalyzing an important and timely communication transformation in our Nation. We are grateful for this new and productive partnership that is – like everything we do – rooted in Aloha.

NOTE: While Native Hawaiians are not federally considered Indigenous, the Nation of Hawai’i got its accreditation as an Indigenous Peoples’ Organization during the 16th Session of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Want to learn more about how Nation of Hawai’i and many other rural and remote Indigenous communities are connecting themselves to affordable and reliable Internet?

Register to attend the 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit in person November 12 to 13 in Hilo, Hawai’i. Can’t make it in person? You can also register for the livestream event.

Want to take your participation a step further? Consider sponsoring the event and joining the movement of people working to ensure Indigenous and Native Hawaiian communities can connect themselves to affordable and reliable Internet.

Community Networks Growing the Internet

Beyond the Palm Trees: Local Action Key to Fast, Affordable and Reliable Internet Solutions in Rural Hawai’i

To many North Americans, Hawai’i is a place of beaches, resorts, surfing, rainforests, and volcanoes — it’s a vacation destination.

But despite its tourism infrastructure and economy, Native Hawaiian communities in the far-flung chain of more than 130 islands face many of the same Internet connectivity challenges as Indigenous communities in Canada and the continental United States. And for a variety of economic, policy and geographic reasons, it is often excluded from efforts to improve access for Indigenous, rural and remote communities.

The Internet Society believes the Internet is for everyone and works with underserved communities to find and create local access solutions in some of the hardest-to-reach places on earth. What’s exciting is that despite the different geographic landscapes, the same community-led solution underway to improve Internet access in the high Arctic could also help Native Hawaiians carve their own path to better connectivity.

That’s why, in 2019, the Internet Society is holding its third annual Indigenous Connectivity Summit (ICS) in Hawai’i.

Including Indigenous voices in the planning and solutions that shape the Internet is a vital part of closing the digital divide. Previous summits in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2017, and Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada, last year highlighted critical perspectives on connectivity in Indigenous communities. One thing that always stands out is that while these locations may seem very different, people in each place are tackling many of the same issues.

Areas of low population density lack the number of potential users necessary to lure large telecommunications companies to invest in expensive infrastructure, and funding opportunities often exclude Indigenous communities.

This problem is compounded in Hawai’i, where the roughly 300,000 Native Hawaiians lack the legal status of Indigenous people on the continental United States. But like their Indigenous counterparts in the Arctic and in the deserts of the American southwest, Native Hawaiians face poorer health and educational outcomes, more loss of culture and language, and lower incomes than other Hawaiians. And, like those in Canada and the continental United States, they have less access to high-speed, affordable Internet, especially those living outside major cities like Honolulu.

As Colin Kippen of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement recently described it, Internet connectivity is a powerful tool for self-determination. Access is vital to participate fully in the world: in educational pursuits, economic activities, social interaction, even access to fundamentals like medical care. It is particularly important for Indigenous communities, as it plays an important role in revitalizing cultures and languages driven to near-extinction by colonialism. It brings people together, allowing Elders to share knowledge, language to be preserved, stories to be told. 

The Internet has shown us time and again that we can achieve great things when we work together. When it comes to closing the digital divide, we have to approach solutions in the same collaborative way. The 2019 Summit welcomes everyone who plays a role in bringing Internet access to Indigenous communities: Indigenous leaders, community members, network operators, service providers, researchers and policy makers.

The event will give participants a better understanding of the connectivity challenges faced by Indigenous communities in all parts of North America, as well as an opportunity to share successes and find solutions to bring home to their own communities.

Native Hawaiians are already leading the way to establishing better connectivity. In addition to leading innovative local programs, several participants have registered for the Internet Society’s community network training program that will teach them how to build their own Internet access solution. We can all learn from their successes and do something to support faster, more affordable and reliable connectivity solutions for those who need it most.

Register for the 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit today!

Want to take your participation a step further? Learn about our sponsorship opportunities.

Community Networks Growing the Internet

2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit Training: Empowering Communities to Create Connections on Their Own Terms

Indigenous communities across North America are working to bridge the digital divide.

Each year the Indigenous Connectivity Summit (ICS) brings together community leaders, network operators, policymakers, and others to talk about new and emerging networks and the policies that impact them. During the two-day Summit, people from across the United States, Canada, and the rest of the world share best practices, challenges, and success stories – and learn how they can work together when they return home to solve connectivity challenges in Indigenous communities.

This year, we’ll be in Hilo, Hawaii from November 12-15.

But that’s not nearly enough time to cover everything, especially with close to 1,000 amazing participants (200 in-person and 700 online) ready to share their stories and create new connections.

So we’re trying something new. As we’ve done before, the ICS will still be split into two parts: a two-day training and a two-day event. Now participants can also attend a series of two distinct virtual training sessions before the event in Hawaii: Community Networks and Policy and Advocacy.

These sessions will allow participants to spend time over the course of several weeks getting in-depth information about two of the topics we spend the most time on at the Summit. They’ve been specially designed by experts in the field, most of whom have also participated in at least one ICS before. Their first-hand knowledge about what it’s really like to build, maintain, and operate a network and to advocate for policies that will reduce the barriers to connectivity that Indigenous communities face is invaluable.

The Policy and Advocacy Training is a six-week course that will include weekly webinars and curated resources on a variety of topics. It is intended for anyone interested in learning more about the ways in which existing policies can impact communities’ ability to get access to the Internet, and how they can make their voices heard and create change at a national level.

The Community Networks Training will have two parts. The first is a virtual, eight-week course via webinars (similar to the Policy and Advocacy course). Participants who complete the online portion of the course will have the opportunity to come to Pu’uhonua O Waimanalo, Hawaii after the ICS during November 14-15 for a two-day, hands-on technical training and launch of a community network. They’ll learn about the technical and soft skills – including funding, project management, and community engagement – necessary to build and run a network. They’ll also work closely with networking experts to learn best practices and create a new interpersonal network of networkers.

Each weekly course will be led by a different set of experts representing a variety of backgrounds: rural and urban, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, Canadian and American, etc. We hope these training sessions will help ICS attendees learn new, practical skills and that they’ll create an opportunity for deeper conversation for years to come. These new networks of training alumni will be ready to build and defend networks for themselves – and to teach their communities to do the same! (After the Summit, these trainings will be made publicly available so that alumni and their communities can continue to learn.)

Indigenous people have a right to high-speed, secure Internet on their own terms. When we meet in Hawaii for the 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit, alumni and other participants can build on these new skills, as well as their newly-formed networks of networkers, to help make that happen!

Register for the Indigenous Connectivity Summit!

About Internet Society Community Networks Growing the Internet

Community Dispatch: New Hawaii Chapter Says the Internet Still a Force for Good

My first exposure to the Internet Society was back in 1995 when they held the 5th Annual INET International Networking Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was a time when accessing the Internet was a new experience, at least for the public. Terms like hyperlinks, HTTP, FTP, Pine, and the World Wide Web were exciting and the innocence of connecting the world was full of potential.

Fast forward 25 years and the Internet is truly a worldwide resource. With the advent of smartphones, high-speed Internet, wireless technologies, and robust web protocols, accessing and communicating has become a rich experience. But within a quarter of a century, the innocence of the Internet has also tarnished. Not a day goes by without a story in the media about security breaches, privacy lost, horrible things broadcast over social media, online bullying, surveillance, hate speech, and the list goes on.

It is in this environment that we’re launching the Internet Society Hawaii Chapter. The mission of the Internet Society still rings true today: to bring the Internet of opportunity to everyone everywhere, an Internet that is open, globally connected, secure, and trustworthy. These principles apply whether you live in an urban center or rural community. And despite misconceptions people may form based on access in Hawaii’s popular tourist destinations, many nearby communities still lack fast, affordable, and reliable Internet.

I look forward to working with Hawaii Chapter members and the community to tackle issues like digital inclusion, privacy, and security, with rural access being front and center. Having a direct connection to the Internet Society will be an important part of establishing Hawaii as a communication hub of the Pacific.

One of the upcoming ways the Hawaii Chapter hopes to shed light on both local access issues and Internet success stories is by co-hosting the upcoming 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit November 12-13 in Hilo, Hawaii.

The first two Indigenous Connectivity Summits have already proven great things happen when we work together. We look forward to connecting with Native Hawaiian community members, Indigenous leaders, community network operators, Internet service providers, researchers, and policymakers with a common goal of connecting Indigenous communities across North America to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet. If you are interested in joining us, you can register now.

Despite the gloomy narrative increasingly portrayed in media, the Internet is still a powerful force for good. The Hawaii Chapter looks forward to participating in the 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit and many other opportunities to highlight how connectivity can support health and wellbeing, economic development, education, and innovation.

Want to get involved? Join the new Internet Society Hawaii Chapter today! If you haven’t already done so, you can also become an Internet Society member and join a global community that believes the Internet is for everyone.

For event updates and information about exciting sponsorship opportunities, please visit the 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit website.

Learn about the Internet Society’s work with community networks to support Internet access solutions around the world.

Community Networks Growing the Internet

Collaboration, Connectivity, and Self-Determination

Over 20 million people in North America lack access to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet. In October 2018, the Indigenous Connectivity Summit gathered over 150 Indigenous leaders, policymakers, network operators, and community members in the Canadian Arctic town of Inuvik to focus on a common goal: bringing fast, affordable, and reliable Internet to Indigenous communities. The event featured success stories of community networks across North America to demonstrate the power of communities to lead their own Internet solutions, and how anyone can support them.

Crystal Gail Fraser, a Gwichyà Gwich’in woman who calls Inuvik home, sees collaborative Internet solutions as a critical path to self-determination for her community.

As I stepped off the plane in Inuvik, I inhaled the arctic air. I observed the scenic landscape of Dinjii Zhuh (Gwich’in) and Inuvialuit territory, taking in the familiarity: the snow-covered rolling hills, stunted spruce trees, and ice crystals in the air.

A scenic landscape on the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, which is located on Inuvialuit
Photo credit: April Froncek

This land and all that it holds, means, and represents, has been critical to Dinjii Zhuh culture, economies, and lifestyles since Ts’ii Dęįį (Time Immemorial).

Crystal Gail Fraser and her daughter Quinn Addison Fraser visit their ancestral fish camp, Dachan Choo Gę̀hnjik in August 2018, approximately 240 kilometers upriver from Inuvik. Photo credit: Megan Fraser

“My dìdųų (grandmother), Marka Andre Bullock, was a fierce Gwichyà Gwich’in fisherwoman and always reminded me of the importance of our connection to the land. Surely, she learned that from her own mother, Julienne Teh’dahcha Andre, who helped negotiate Treaty 11 in 1921 and made her living as a multilingual trapper. Inspired by Marka and Julienne and mentored by my mother, Juliet Bullock, my PhD research is a family history of sorts. I examine the history of residential schooling in Nanhkak Thak during the second half of the twentieth century. In a side project, I explore how Dinjii Zhuh have used oral histories and communications in a changing world.

Photo credit: Candice Ward/The Internet Society

A partnership between the University of Alberta and the Gwich’in Tribal Council, the Gwich’in Digital Literacy project is developing digital literacy workbooks for communities. My role has been to incorporate Dinjii Zhuh understandings into the content, design relevant learning/teaching models, conduct interviews with local digital innovators, and serve as a cultural consultant.

At the Indigenous Connectivity Summit, and in northern Canada in particular, concerns about reliable connectivity, data caps and usage, Internet speed, and cost dominated conversations. And although the recent completion of the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Optic Link brought high-speed Internet to the region, many people continue to express discontent around connectivity and accessibility.

A highlight was hearing Gwichyà Gwich’in Elder, knowledge keeper, and former residential school student John Norbert of Tsiigehtchic offer remarks in Dinjii Zhuh Ginjik. He encouraged the learning of our language and noted how language revitalization is inherently linked to the implementation of new technology. Indeed, this is critical for Dinjii Zhuh as there are less than 400 fluent speakers today.

Gwichyà Gwich’in Elder, knowledge keeper, and former residential school student John Norbert of Tsiigehtchic offering remarks in Dinjii Zhuh Ginjik.
Photo Credit: Shuli Hallak/Internet Society

During the event I was exposed to new people and new ideas, and, for the first time, I thought about the networks and infrastructure that connects Inuvik, a town of nearly 3,300, people to the world. From mail delivery by dogteam to the establishment of aviation in the 1920s to the rise of radios, Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line sites, and early satellite planning, Inuvik is now connected internationally through the Internet.

The Indigenous Connectivity Summit offered participants an intriguing peek into Dinjii Zhuh and Inuvialuit cultures and traditions. It also showed how Indigenous northerners are critical to global conversations about connectivity and leading their communities to better ways to engage with the world.


We are grateful to Treaty 6/Métis nations for hosting us as guests on their land. The blog post was written in Edmonton, where photos by Candice Ward were captured.

Jii University of Alberta Treaty 6 guuk’iigeh’ jii nanhkak guu’ ęįh. Jii dinjii zhuh ttak Cree, Métis, Saulteaux, Niisitapi, ts’at Nakota Sioux niizhet gwits’at. Jii nanhkak łatr’idàł guulùt zhidąh gwì’àn guugweech’ìn.

The University of Alberta is located in ᐊᒥᐢᑿᒌᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ(Amiskwacîwâskahikan) on Treaty 6 territory, traditional lands of First Nations and Métis people.

Community networks are communications infrastructure built, managed, and used by local communities. They provide a sustainable solution to address the connectivity gaps that exist in underserved urban, remote, and rural areas around the world.

The Internet Society is working with communities in the Northwest Territories to provide training, support, and funding to lead and develop their own sustainable community network solutions.

To learn more about the Internet Society’s upcoming 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit, please visit

About Internet Society Building Trust Community Networks Growing the Internet Improving Technical Security Internet Governance Internet of Things (IoT) Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS) Public Policy Security Shaping the Internet's Future

Working Together the Internet Way to Build Success in North America

One of the most common lines you’ll hear in the virtual halls of the Internet Society is that the Internet’s success is due to its open, distributed, and global nature.

Think about it. A network of voluntarily-connected networks changed the course of history in a matter of decades because people agreed to work and innovate together. It’s a deeply profound source of inspiration about the power of humankind.

It practically begs the question: can we replicate even a portion of its success by embodying the “the Internet way” of working in North America?

The answer is yes.

As part of this, one thing is strikingly clear. Chapters and partners are the lifeblood of the organization. They are critical to working more closely with communities at the front lines of our work.

The Internet’s own globally-operable infrastructure proves the infinite potential of what can happen when people work together. In the same way, we will come together as a diverse community to help define future priorities.

We’ve already seen successes in the North American region that show how closer collaboration with Chapters and partners can help us reach new levels of success.

Enhancing IoT Security

Canada is changing how countries around the world think about securing our connected future.  Last year, the Internet Society launched and led the Canadian Multistakeholder Process oversight committee to secure Internet of Things (IoT) in Canada.

Throughout this project, the Canadian chapter helped plan meetings and enlist a dedicated group of partners, stakeholders, and youth participants to develop recommendations for an IoT policy to ensure security is ingrained in Canadian innovation. The Quebec chapter also organized a focus group on IoT during an Internet Engineering Task Force meeting in Montreal last year.  Even our U.S. Chapters and organization members are supporting the cause. For instance, the Internet Society’s New York Chapter hosted a session on how to make trustworthy IoT last October.

Thanks to this collaboration, countries and policymakers around the world are being inspired by our work. While the final recommendations aren’t expected until April 2019 (Canadians can comment on the draft here), we’re already helping countries like Senegal, France, and others to adopt similar regulatory approaches to build a future we can trust.

Indigenous Connectivity

Connecting the world is critical and we won’t rest until everyone who wants to be connected has the option to do so. Thanks to a dedicated group of individuals, communities, and local Chapters like New Mexico, we’ve made great headway to inspire solutions to close the digital divide in Indigenous communities throughout North America.

We’ve already held two successful Indigenous Connectivity Summits (ICS) to explore the potential of community networks to empower communities to connect to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet on their own terms. The ICS has also inspired plans to create a new Chapter focused on Indigenous connectivity.

You can read about last year’s event held in Canada’s Artic community of Inuvik, NT in Empowerment Through Connectivity.  We’re already looking forward to the third Summit in Hawaii this November, and not just for the change in weather. Stay tuned here for more details on ICS!

Promoting a Healthy Internet for Everyone

When it comes to advocacy, we have a lot of ground to cover as a global organization. There is a wide range of issues critical to ensuring an open Internet for all, and Chapters and partners are crucial to speaking with a stronger regional voice.

Just last month, Konstantinos Komaitis led a speaking series on regulation in the United States and Canada to bring attention to our Chatham House call for papers on consolidation. Thanks to help of the Washington DC and Canada Chapters to organize these events, our “regulation on the road” tour brought attention to the unintended consequences of regulation in key newsworthy moments, such as securing Canada’s federal election.

One of the successes that inspired our collaborative efforts was supporting DC Chapter Executive Director Dustin Phillips’ Internet community road trip last year. His collaboration with the San Franscisco-Bay Area chapter and other partners to promote the importance of getting involved in Internet Governance helped bring some powerful doers and shakers to the ecosystem.

This year, we’ll be advocating for security standards like MANRS. We’ll also continue to collaborate on even more events, educational resources, and webinars to amplify what we do, why it matters, and how it’s important to the future of the Internet.

Moving Forward Together

When it comes to making a difference, the Internet has already taught us that we’re stronger together than we are apart.

By integrating “the Internet way” of working with Chapters and partners based on our shared goals and values, the Internet Society can take greater strides to making the Internet a better and more inclusive place for everyone.

Based on our early successes, we’re more confident than ever that collaboration will take us to new levels of success.

Community Networks Growing the Internet

Investing in Indigenous Connectivity Is an Investment in Our Future Online

There’s one New Year’s resolution we can bank on to improve the health and livelihoods of millions of people across North America this year, and it doesn’t involve buying into health fads or gadgets.

The newly-released 2018 Indigenous Connectivity Summit (ICS) Community Report shows a strong correlation between Indigenous connectivity and the well-being and sustainability of rural and remote Indigenous communities, especially when solutions are local.

The report summarizes outcomes of the 2018 Indigenous Connectivity Summit that brought nearly 140 Indigenous leaders, policy makers, network operators, and community members to the Arctic community of Inuvik, NT last October.

Like most New Year’s resolutions, connectivity solutions are neither quick nor cheap. This is especially true in northern rural and remote regions of the U.S. and Canada with geographic hurdles that make it hard for Internet service providers to achieve economies of scale.

It’s one of the main reasons today in 2019, millions of people across North America – yes, millions – still don’t have access to reliable broadband Internet.

Last October, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities called on the federal government to invest $4 billion over ten years to connect all Canadians to the Canadian Radio-television and Communications Commission’s universal service target of 50Mbps/10Mbps.

Yes, that’s a big ask – but investments such as these are both critical and doable. We faced similar and arguably larger barriers when building the railroad and highway systems that have been integral to the health and success of our nations and economies.

As digital citizens, it’s our turn to finish paving the communications infrastructure that is no longer a nice-to-have, but crucial to the self-determination and competitiveness of individuals, communities, and countries everywhere.

While there have been several initiatives to help promote universal broadband in both Canada and the U.S., it’s up to all of us to urge our governments, policymakers, and corporations to make bigger and bolder investments to cover the real cost of ensuring Indigenous voices are part of our digital future.

Nation building costs a lot of money, but making sure that every household in North America can connect to the opportunities the Internet offers is worth it. The more we invest into empowering underserved areas with the tools to contribute in our digital spaces, the better the return for everyone.

To truly close the digital divide, we need to aim for infrastructure solutions to make sure rural and remote Indigenous communities can keep up to a rapidly changing world of communications technology and products requiring speeds 100 to 1,000 times faster than what our best-connected regions already get.

The ICS report features advice from Indigenous community network operators across North America who have successfully empowered people with fast, affordable, and reliable connectivity on their own terms.

If Canada got its wish for a federal investment of $4 billion over ten years towards connectivity solutions, it would go a long way towards empowering individuals and communities to bring more of these opportunities to light.

Luckily, there are solutions in all shapes and sizes. Community networks are “do it yourself” networks built by people for people.  They’re being built all over the world, too. From rural and remote locations in India to the mountaintops of Tusheti, Georgia, community networks are great examples of how people can come together to build an Internet connection.

So how can we as digital citizens support more of these solutions? The 2018 ICS report has some useful recommendations:

  1. Ensure governments consult with Indigenous communities to develop universal connectivity strategies that benefit everyone.
  2. Build universal service strategies that include the flexibility to adapt to technological advances.
  3. Consider different technological solutions for different connectivity realities and challenges.
  4. Ask open questions about connectivity needs to avoid justifying a specific agenda.
  5. Demand open access to data from telecommunications companies that can help inspire solutions.
  6. Make funding opportunities accessible to all kinds of providers, large and small.
  7. Prioritize connectivity solutions to the hardest places to connect first.
  8. Encourage respect when developing solutions for service in tribal, treaty, and land claim areas.
  9. Consider different models of connectivity to best serve individual geographic locations.
  10. Free up more spectrum from companies who hold a license without using it.

The benefits of ensuring Indigenous voices are included online go beyond promoting the individual and economic health and well-being of our physical communities. It’s also critical to the infrastructure and integrity of the Internet.

The Internet connects people because of its open, distributed, and interoperable design.

It’s a network of voluntarily-connected networks created as a community for everyone. It works because everyone can contribute and only gets better when more of us are able to.

While it’s safe to predict this year’s Internet-based innovation will have a profound impact on our lives in 2019 and beyond, it’s hard to celebrate advancement if millions are still left behind.

Imagine what more could be possible if our governments invested in connecting the millions of other minds and cultural perspectives our countries have to offer. The possibilities are virtually infinite.

Keep an eye on our Indigenous Connectivity page for news and updates on the upcoming 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit.

Help build a digital future that puts people first. #SwitchItOn

Photo ©Jim Schlichting

Community Networks Growing the Internet

Human Connection Frames Success of 2018 Indigenous Connectivity Summit

The Internet is an incredible tool that can help amplify voices that may not otherwise be heard. But when it comes to making sure everyone can have access to this tool, we can’t downplay the power of human connections to overcome connectivity challenges.

One of the things that stood out for me most at the 2018 Indigenous Connectivity Summit (ICS) last week in Inuvik, NT was getting a first-hand view of what happens when Indigenous voices are at the forefront of Internet solutions.

Nearly 140 people joined us in the Arctic Circle for a two-day series of panels and presentations focused on finding solutions to improve connectivity in rural and remote Indigenous communities, with a special focus on northern connectivity challenges. The livestream was viewed over 850 times.

It was inspiring to hear speakers shed light on the ways they innovated to bring Internet to underserved Indigenous communities on their own terms through Community Networks throughout North America and abroad.

I think some of the most important successes, however, came when ICS participants were able to interact during breaks, round-table discussions, on the bus trip to Tuktoyaktuk, at the community feast, and even on the flights to and from the event. I’ve already heard of a few participants who were able to make connections that may result in future work together.

When you bring everyone to the table to achieve a common goal at events like the Indigenous Connectivity Summit, connections are made. Partnerships are formed. Problems are solved. People are empowered. One participant even noted that within the first day of the event she had already solved four problems she faced back in her community.

The first Indigenous Connectivity Summit report found that improved connectivity in Indigenous communities leads to better access to critical services like employment, education, and health within communities. It can also play a huge role in language and culture revitalization.

Likewise, the successes of the leaders of Indigenous connectivity at this event will no doubt have a ripple effect in the communities they serve. People will be better equipped to learn or develop Indigenous languages through apps. Communities will have better access to social media campaigns like We Matter that provide messages of hope to Indigenous youth around suicide prevention. The possibilities are literally endless.

I have to express my sincere gratitude to our local partners, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and the Town of Inuvik, and the community members of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. They made sure we experienced the best of the region, from drum dancing and Arctic Games demonstrations to the opportunity to try local foods and tour the Inuvik Satellite Station.

Our other partners were also a huge help, especially with the pre-Summit training day in Edmonton: the University of Alberta and the First Mile Connectivity Consortium. And I’d like to give a huge shout out to the sponsors who made the event possible: CANARIE, Canadian Internet Registration Authority, Cybera, Google, Iristel and Ice Wireless, ICANN, Telesat, and OneWeb.

While the event was an all-around success in terms of connections, we have to remember that we all have a responsibility to ensure Indigenous voices are included in the future of the Internet. As such, it’s important to keep the conversation going and foster these connections to achieve success beyond this event.

One of our goals was to provide a forum for participants to connect and develop lasting partnerships. If you made a connection with someone at the Summit that could result in future work together, or if you were able solve a challenge you are experiencing because of something you learned or a connection you made, please let us know.

If you weren’t able to join us in person and would like to connect with any of the ICS participants, let us know and we can help make it happen.

Stay tuned to our website for the launch of the upcoming 2018 Indigenous Connectivity Summit community report.

Find resources on community networks, cultural preservation, and Indigenous-driven access at the Indigenous Connectivity page and help #SwitchItOn!

Read more of our coverage of the Indigenous Connectivity Summit 2018.

Image ©Shuli Hallak

Community Networks Growing the Internet

Prioritizing Indigenous Connectivity in North America

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly technology evolves. In 2007, the iPhone was released and dramatically transformed the way we communicate. Then, less than three years later, the first iPad hit consumer shelves and revolutionized personal computing. Now, Internet service providers around the world are racing to deploy the infrastructure needed to fuel our transition into smart cities of increasingly connected homes and driverless cars.

While some major U.S. cities are set to get home access to 5G broadband speeds as soon as this month, there are still many people living in rural and remote Indigenous communities across North America that struggle to open an email.

It’s time to get our priorities straight. The Internet is a powerful tool transforming virtually every aspect of our lives. But we can’t move forward if anyone is left behind. Indigenous voices must count in our digital future.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) recently made an important step in the right direction when it released details of its $750 million Broadband Fund to improve connectivity in underserved and remote regions of Canada.

The fund makes an important commitment to ensure applicants consult with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis and respect treaty and land claim rights. The great news is that CRTC will also give special consideration to projects that provide service to Indigenous communities living in remote and underserved areas throughout Canada.

Since anyone from a band council to a big three telecom corporation is eligible to apply for the fund, it’s a prime opportunity for Indigenous communities to connect themselves to the Internet on their own terms through community networks.

Community networks are communications infrastructure built, managed and used by local communities. They provide a sustainable solution to address the connectivity gaps that exist in underserved urban, remote, and rural areas around the world.

The Internet Society will highlight some of these at the 2018 Indigenous Connectivity Summit (#Indigenet2018) this week in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. In partnership with University of Alberta, First Mile Connectivity Consortium, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, and the Town of Inuvik, the event will inspire solutions to connect the last 1,000 miles by showcasing success stories of community networks from North America and abroad.

While the CRTC Broadband Fund could be a huge step towards instigating fast, affordable and sustainable Internet solutions in Indigenous communities, collaboration will be key to get the most bang for their buck. That means we need the CRTC and broadband fund applicants to join governments, policy makers, businesses, and community leaders at the Indigenous Connectivity Summit to honour their commitment and support them.

Thankfully, we already have some important allies in our corner. Here’s how our sponsors are helping to make #Indigenet2018 possible:

Our Gold Level sponsors:

  • CANARIE manages and develops components of digital research infrastructure for Canada’s research, education and innovation communities.
  • Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is a member-based not-for-profit organization, best known for managing the .CA internet domain on behalf of all Canadians, developing and implementing policies that support Canada’s Internet community and representing the .CA registry internationally.
  • Cybera is a not-for-profit corporation responsible for the operation of Alberta’s Optical Regional Advanced Network.
  • Iristel, is a Canadian provider of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services and its subsidiary, Ice Wireless, is a regional mobile operator and telecommunications company based in Inuvik, Northwest Territories.

Our Silver Sponsors:

  • Google is an American multinational technology company that specializes in Internet-related services and products, which include online advertising technologies, search engine, cloud computing, software, and hardware. Google has supported the Summit since 2017.
  • OneWeb is a proposed satellite Internet constellation of approximately 882 satellites expected to provide global Internet broadband service to individual consumers as early as 2019.

Our Bronze Sponsors:

  • The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the non-profit organization responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces and numerical spaces of the Internet, ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation. ICANN has also been a supporter of the Summit since 2017.
  • Telesat is a Canadian satellite communications company providing service for broadcast, telecom and corporate entities in North America and abroad.

As digital citizens, we all have a responsibility to create an Internet that is truly open and accessible to everyone.

Making sure the CRTC honours its commitment to include Indigenous voices in the decisions and solutions that shape our future is a critical part of closing Canada’s digital divide. It’s also an important step on the path towards reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada.

Let’s come together at #Indigenet2018 and ensure the CRTC follows through to #CountMyVoice and #SwitchItOn!

Read more of our coverage of the Indigenous Connectivity Summit 2018.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons