Community connectivity – empowering the unconnected – WS 03 2017
Many communities in Europe and globally continue to suffer from a lack of Internet connectivity or from unsatisfactory quality and affordability of their Internet connection. What can communities do when national broadband strategies and market-based approaches do not deliver an acceptable level of Internet connectivity? This workshop will explore different strategies, demonstrating how communities can take action and establish a sustainable Internet access model at local level.
Internet access, connectivity, community networks, community hubs, Internet adoption, local content, empowerment
In Europe, there are still communities without Internet connectivity, and communities with unsatisfactory Internet connectivity in terms of quality and affordability. The level of connectivity does not necessarily depend on the average economic situation or the general state of development in any country – rather it depends on the prevailing policy environment, market conditions and on people’s awareness of the connectivity possibilities at community level.
In liberalized European telecommunications markets, private sector typically takes the lead in building access infrastructure and in providing connectivity to communities. If there is no interest to invest, European governments can use a variety of measures to promote Internet development ranging from public subsidies to tax incentives. However, sometimes these approaches are not enough. As a result, dozens of community networking projects and other local initiatives to boost Internet adoption have sprung up around Europe, showing the practicability of the “community connectivity” option.
Our objective is to analyze different examples of community networks and other local access initiatives, while debating the role of community networks for the European connectivity agendas. The aim of the session will be to analyze the recipes for success and reflect on the necessary elements of well-functioning community access initiatives.
This workshop will feature key participants, who will share their insights on the topic to kick off the discussion. Following the introductory remarks, the two moderators will facilitate an interactive discussion with the audience.
- Maarit Palovirta (ISOC)
Subject Matter Expert (SME):
- Olivier Crepin Leblond (EURALO)
- Luca Belli, Head of Internet Governance, FGV Direito Rio
Biography: Luca Belli, PhD, is Senior researcher at the Center for Technology and Society (CTS) of Fundação Getulio Vargas Law School, Rio de Janeiro, where he leads the 'Internet Governance @ FGV' project. Before joining CTS, Luca worked for the Council of Europe Internet Governance Unit and served as a network neutrality expert for the Council of Europe. He is also the founder and co-chair of the Dynamic Coalition on Network Neutrality of the global IGF, as well as the co-founder and co-chair of the Dynamic Coalition on Platform Responsibility and the Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity.
- Giorgi Cherkezishvili, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia
Biography: Mr. Giorgi Cherkezishvili is a Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia since March 2017. One of the direction under his responsibilities is ICT & innovations. Previously, Mr. Cherkezishvili worked in different high level positions at the JSC Partnership Fund, JSC Bank of Georgia, Chamber of Control of Georgia and at the Black Sea International University as an invited lecturer.
- Jan Droege, Director, European Commission Broadband Competence Offices Support Facility (BCO-SF)
Biography: For over 20 years, Jan has built up extensive insights into EU funding processes and has helped many institutions and organisations in their funding strategies. In 2016 Jan, was involved in the pilot phase, preparing for the EU network of Broadband Competence Offices (BCOs) where he was tasked with assessing the support structures in Germany that promote broadband investments. Since January 2017, Jan is the Director of the BCOs Support Facility. Prior to joining BCO-SF and the Schuman Associates EU Consultancy, Jan worked in the European Commission’ Directorate General for Regional Policy.
- Lise Fuhr, Director General, ETNO (European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association)
Biography: Lise has been ETNO’s Director General since January 2016. Prior to that, she was Chief Operating Officer of DK Hostmaster and DIFO, the company managing the .dk domain name. In the period between September 2014 and December 2015 she also chaired the Cross Community Working Group for the IANA Stewardship Transition. She has recently been appointed to the Internet Society Public Interest Registry Board of Directors for a three year term starting in July 2016. Lise has 10+ years of previous experience in the telecoms industry both in government and industry.
- Ucha Seturi, Executive Director, Small and Medium Telecom Operators' Association of Georgia
Biography: Ucha Seturi is a board member of the ISOC Georgian chapter. he is a CEO of "Small&Medium Telecom Operator's Association of Georgia" from 2015. He is a Lawyer. Since 1999 he worked at JSC "United Telecom of Georgia" Head of Legal Department, since 2008, worked at the Georgian National Communications Commission.He is a visiting lecturer on Media law in Tbilisi State university and member of the Bar Association of Georgia since 2003.
- Maarit Palovirta, Internet Society
Biography: Maarit Palovirta is a Senior Manager for Regional Affairs in Europe at Internet Society. She works on Internet development and policy issues across Europe and Central Asia. Maarit leading several initiatives on Internet connectivity development in Eastern Europe and is actively engaged in the policy discussion in the region. Previously Maarit worked in ICT business development and government advocacy with Cisco Systems and with well-known public affairs consultancies in Brussels.
- Tommi Karttaavi, Head of Information Society, Finnish Municipalities Association
Biography: Tommi Karttaavi is the Director of the Information Society Unit of the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities. He works in ICT policy development with Finnish municipalities and government agencies. His previous employers include the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of the Interior, private sector companies and the Internet Society. He has previously served as the Chair and is currently an Honorary President of ISOC Finland.
- Fotjon Kosta, Albanian government/IGF
Organising Team (Org Team):
- Luca Belli, FGV Direito Rio
- Ucha Seturi, Small and Medium Telecom Operator's Association of Georgia
- Oliana Sula, Durres University
- Mikhail Doroshevich, e-Baltic initiative
- Marina Sokolova, Belarus
- Stephen Wyber, International Federation of Library Associations
- Elif Kuzeci, Max Planck Institute
- Fotjon Kosta, Albanian Government
- Aziz Soltobaev, Kyrgyz ISOC Chapter
- Tessel Renzenbrink, Dutch ISOC Chapter
- There are still many areas in Europe that have unsatisfactory internet connectivity. The traditional network model is efficient in some areas but the community network model provides a viable and complementary alternative.
- There are beneficial externalities to community network model related to policy, jobs and skills. It is important to share knowledge on how to set up and scale the community network model in Europe.
- Cooperation is important when trying to provide Internet access in remote and rural areas. Everyone has a role to play including government and private sector.
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>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: I'm not sure we should close the door. Welcome, everybody, to this session on community connectivity today. We called it Empowering the Unconnected.
We have a very esteemed and competent panel with us here today. Before introducing the panel members I just wanted to introduce myself and my co-moderators. I'm Maarit Palovirta, from the ISOC European Regional Office. And this is Tommi Karttaavi, from the Finnish Municipalities Association, Director for Information Society and also dealing with connectivity issues.
We have here in the panel Ucha Seturi from the Georgian Small and Medium Telecom Operators' Association, who are currently conducting an interesting project in this area. We have Deputy Minister Giorgi Cherkezishvili -- sorry -- who has kindly agreed to also talk about from Georgia perspective, from the government perspective what kind of activities, promotional activities they are doing to advance connectivity. We have Jan Doerg who is the newly appointed Director of the new EU office, European Commission Office on Broadband Competence, kind of an advisory body to Member States.
We have Lise Fuhr, Director General from ETNO, the European Telecommunication Network Operators Association.
And finally we have Luca Belli, researcher, academic, head of Internet governance from the FGV project. He's from Brazil but very much impressing the Internet governance activities in Europe.
Before going to the panel I want to frame the discussion a bit. So some of you might be asking, well, why are we still discussing connectivity? We are in Europe, we have connectivity. If you look at the numbers there is still a very steep gap between especially rural and urban areas even within the European Union and the neighboring regions and Eastern Europe, southeast Europe very much so as well.
In this workshop we will be, of course, addressing regions without any Internet connectivity, but especially in the European Union there are regions with villages, perhaps cities with unsatisfactory Internet connectivity. So areas where perhaps quality is not sufficient to use services, et cetera. This is very much in the scope of our workshop.
I'm going to quote numbers from a recent European digital progress report just published a couple of weeks ago by the European Commission. This is EU data but I think it gives us a good indication on the gap between urban and rural areas.
Whereas in Europe there's good basic broadband coverage but let's be honest, basic broadband, talking about 256 kilobits. It doesn't help us much if you want to access video content or complex services. In terms of the next generation access which the European Commission defines as more than 30 megabits per second we have urban or total EU 71 percent covered. That sound like a very good number in terms of international comparison. However, if we look at the rural areas in the European Union, only 28 percent of rural areas are covered at these speeds. There's a significant gap there.
Similarly in mobile, so in 4G we have overall 86 percent coverage in the European Union, but in rural areas only 36 percent. So I think if we think about the way our societies are evolving today, we have more public services on line, eHealth, eLearning, tax declarations, and also more online content, video, et cetera. It is becoming really urgent that we make an effort to connect all the people in our countries so that they can all benefit from these services on an equal footing.
So without any further ado I would like to ask Jan Droege to start. He wanted to start with a little video.
>> JAN DROEGE: Thanks a lot, Maarit. This is a short video we just produced with the Support Facility. I think that will shape the discussion and show what these community-driven networks might actually be. It's just one example, but I think it's a start.
>> RECORDED VOICE: Broadband for the rural north. It's a community interest cooperative. It is owned by the people which are in the company.
This is pure fiber network. It delivers two fibers to every single property, every parish that we adopt. It delivers a thousand megabits per second symmetrical, making it the fastest residential network in the world. Even faster than NASA. We get more Internet than NASA in our little bands.
>> RECORDED VOICE: When did you first plan the 2,000 ... as soon as we actually started going active we saw things happening, but the next parish along, and the corners, those up there, why can't we join it?
>> RECORDED VOICE: To finance this project, when we couldn't get any funding or support from anyone else, we decided to make it into a cooperative, a community interest cooperative. So we had it all drawn up and legalized with pro rules and regulations. We can never sell the company. The company belongs to the people. What we did, we went to the people and said look, it's going to cost this much. If you will put that money into this business, you start this business and we'll buy all this and we'll give you it back. You dig it all in, to your land, farms, villages.
When you have it dug in, we'll come and light it up and make it work. The land owner or farmer, they've got a lot of digging to do, they can get paid 1 pound 50 a meter in shares. We don't pay them money, but we paid them in shares. 150 pounds for the connection, and in some cases it might cost us 2,000-pounds to connect the house. They just pay 150. And that's when they take the service or not. Some people will just put it in and not take the service, but it will decrease the value of the property. The people who takes the service, everybody pays 30 pounds a month.
If a parish is accepted, it's got to commit to raising enough money to do its own parish. This can be 200, 300. You know, nearly a million pounds in some cases to do a whole parish. They have to commit to do every single property in that parish. You can't say I'm not doing Fred up on the hill because it's too expensive or it will take too long. You have to do the whole parish, everybody is entitled to it. All the manual labor, putting boxes on houses, running through the gardens, that is done by each parish. Any money we make over the expenditure we make has to be returned to the community.
>> RECORDED VOICE: I'm now connected where we've got the full facility. It's like pulling out of a dark cave into daylight. For people who have not had that speed on Internet.
(End of video.)
>> JAN DROEGE: Okay. So I thought the video tells more than a long speech because it is a real case example. There's many others that Luca later will talk about the many others. I wanted to show one example of how in the EU such community driven initiatives have worked. Now I want to go back to why Maarit kindly asked me to be here today. This is one example of how, so to say, investment shortcomings in rural areas can be overcome.
Because as Maarit said in rural areas in the EU the connectivity at new generation network speeds is less than 30 percent. There's a real investment gap, if I may say. And this might have many reasons, but the main reason, of course, there is no business case that private investors don't want to go to these areas because the business case is not attractive enough.
The EU as well as many Member States have created many incentive schemes for investing in such zones. Despite the existence of these funds -- I will just give two numbers on this. But in the past EU invested about two and a half billion Euro to connect broadband in under-serviced areas. In the period 2011-2017. To 2020 there's 6 billion Euro for such investment. The two and a half billion, not all of it was used. It's a shame when you think there are under serviced areas but the public money that is there to bridge the funding gap is not used. They made analysis. There are many reasons but the three main reasons are that people in these local communities have not the technical skills, don't have the legal skills, an don't know how to do public procurement. There may be more but these are the main reasons.
The EU said many have actually managed to overcome these issues. Can we not share this experience? They set up the broadband competence support facility where I now work to share best practices, to exchange, empower the competence tense offices in the Member States and in the regions in the EU to accelerate the roll-out of broadband by training on the state aid rolls, et cetera, et cetera.
So I think that's a very brief summary of the situation, Maarit. Maybe we can then take questions later.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Thank you, Jan. Very good. Lise, would you like to continue? Next from the industry perspective?
>> LISE FUHR: Yes. As Maarit says I'm actually representing the industry. The members of ETNO actually represent 70 percent of the investment capital in broadband in Europe. So it is a big chunk. And I think a panel like this is very important and it is very interesting to actually discuss the various investment models. When it comes to the baseline, all this is about is inclusive access, inclusive access to all the European citizens. This is actually where we as tokens are very interested. Of course, as Jan is saying, this is very much a matter of the business case, but it is also a matter of how we actually create the regulation.
So from our side, actually what we are trying to do is connect the many an not leave anyone behind. We are very interested in actually spread out networks as much as possible. One way to do this is actually to allow for technology and neutrality. There are several ways of actually accessing the actual end user. So by allowing this, incentivizing investment, this is actually making it easier to get a roll-out faster than if we only choose one technology.
Another one is actually how we incentivize the different business models. There I think the community driven one is a very interesting one. I think we should welcome them because if we look into the gigabit society and what we want to accomplish with 5G roll-out, with a lot of other technologies, we are going to need a lot of money. We have the commission stating 500 billion for this, 500 billion Euros. That's until 2020. And I heard someone saying today that in Germany alone it would be 100 billion Euros.
So we might even underestimate these investments. So every business model or every investment model is actually welcome very much. I think we are looking at the code having co-investment, but I think actually this community is also very interesting one where you actually empower the end user by giving them also broadband that they can roll out and do in a way that is best for them.
And this is said, I think, this is very, very good where we see there is no business models because we know there are a lot of areas in Europe where the business model is not good enough, but if you can actually activate the community in these areas we very much welcome this.
So from our side it is actually, we are looking into a landscape where we think that community investment is a complementary model to all the other investment models and should be incentivized. When we talk about the EU funds, actually I've heard that some of the great issues are also that it is so difficult to actually apply for the fund itself. So it is also an administrative thing that makes it very difficult to actually get these monies to work for the European citizens. That's a shame, because we need to actually get this investment out there as soon as possible.
So from an industry perspective I actually have three messages. I think technology neutrality will be key for everything, and also for the community investment models. So if we can actually have as many technologies to reach the end user, that's good. I think we should incentivize all investments. And the third one is, I think this last community investment model is a good complementary model to all the others.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Thank you, Lise. Very encouraging thoughts there from the industry. We are happy to hear that.
Next I would like to ask Luca Belli, who has done quite a lot of research in the area of community networks, to comment on this issue and perhaps explain a bit more in detail what these community networks are and how they operate.
>> LUCA BELLI: Thank you very much. So first of all, I think it is very clear that the topic is quite new on the one hand, because there is a lot of interest on community networks lately, but there are community networks operating for a decade. We have good material for research. It is positive research. There are different facets of the same issue, economic facets, social, legal facets involved.
So to try to coordinate all this research, first of all, at the IGF of the United Nations, the United Nations Internet Governance Forum. We have created a coalition on community connectivity. You fine the report and the copies are there for free or you can simply Google community connectivity PDF. You find it and can download it for free.
I would like to start by telling what are community networks and why are they necessary and what are the benefits.
Community networks are basically crowdsourced bottom-up initiatives. They are networks developed by the community for the community, as the video was showing before. This basically means that individuals that live in some specific area, they try to coordinate their effort and to design, implement and then maintain the network.
This could be done by regular citizens, by entrepreneurs, NGO, even by local administrations. So the community, the very focal point of the network is the community. And that is an extremely important point. I will discuss it a little bit more in the implementation talk. The focal point is this: The network is designed by the community to meet the needs of the community. So that is the next extent reply to what is a market failure that we were showing now, which is that in rural areas -- it is not only in rural areas, but also with urban areas with lower standards of life. A lot of people are still disconnected because they do not have the means to pay for connectivity. Because obviously, having lower level of income or being in rural areas, they do not represent a return on investment of the private sector. The private sector does not have the incentive to invest in a rural community that is very far from its network because it is a high cost and low return on investment.
So that is a market failure. What we have seen also is that the subsidies that are available are not used, is another failure. Think about the fact that there is money, but it is not used. To me that means that the paradigm, the model, traditional model we have been using so far has limits. Those limits are clear. The fact that there are still 4 billion unconnected individuals out of 7.5 means that those limits are evident.
The traditional model can be efficient in some areas but does not work in other areas. Here comes the community network model which as Lise was saying is a complement. There is no competition. It is not a competitive model. It is co-petitive. They work together in different ways to achieve the same outcome.
How does it work? People, they design, they implement their own infrastructure. So it is a different paradigm. They are not the last mile of network. They become the first mile of the network. The community is the first mile. They develop the infrastructure as the video was showing. And the very amazing thing about this is that it is not only development of infrastructure. There is a wide range of positive externalities linked to the development of the infrastructure by the community, which is really impressive because it is not only a great capacity builder. People understand how the network works. They are involved and they build it.
It is also in terms of access to knowledge and spreading of knowledge, because one of the great reasons why people in rural areas are also maybe not interested in Internet access is because with all due respect to great creators like Twitter or Facebook. They would like to have local eHealth systems and eAgriculture. People who build the network, they build the system. There is good example in systems in Catalonia and also other wireless networks that show that people start developing online fora or Voiceover IP systems or other kinds of services that can help their organisation of the community. You have some example, for instance, in Nepal. The Nepal wireless community project. It is now developing smart knowledge, meaning together with connectivity they also develop EL, for people living in Malaya, you can understand how easy it is for them to have access to basic services, not even connectivity. Thanks to the network, you have eAgriculture, eHealth, because developers can trade and share their services.
So I think it's a very interesting initiative and I am very happy that we are finally giving consideration to this digital service.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Thank you, Luca. Jan, did you have a comment?
>> JAN DROEGE: Yes, just to complement what Luca was saying. In fact, there's a second part to the video but I wanted to cut it short where she talks about what has this achieved. Yes, now we have one gig, so what does it mean. Young people who left the community are coming back and how more elderly people who were supposed to go to the city to get health care can live at home. The operation they have in the city hospital, but for the follow-up they can actually stay home.
So this has actually strengthened the community. As Luca said, there are externalities. Not just gigabits per second but it's people's lives.
>> (Speaker away from microphone.)
>> LUCA BELLI: Also socially, also it redevelops all the relations amongst community members. Elderly people are with youngsters looking at how to dig trenches and how to put antennas. It is also a very positive social impact.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: At this stage we've gone through the background here. We have some words from the governmental organisations side, industry, and we have now heard about the community networks example. Do you have any questions at this stage? Any comments? Anything you would like to share?
If not, at this stage I would like to offer the floor. We have here a very concrete national example. And I think up until today it has been very successful. I would like to welcome the esteemed Deputy Minister of Economy of Sustainable Development of Georgia, Mr. Giorgi Cherkezishvili. I would like to ask you and Ucha here to talk about the Georgia example and especially the role of government in Georgia has been very positive in facilitating this process.
>> GIORGI CHERKEZISHVILI: Thank you, first of all, for giving the opportunity to discuss this issue here. This is very crucial for the government structures and government agencies, how to be involved in this process.
First of all, I come a bit before this initiative, I was with the Georgian government last year to start this broadband infrastructure, providing this programming to cover all the country. Before this, the government started to stimulate some business initiatives and new projects and there was a core directions to keep this and spread this all over the country in the rural areas. We know that Georgia is a mountain region and crucial to keep these people in the mountain regions and to provide all services which the government was providing to all other citizens.
This project was the started and we realized in initiative, it was dedicated some additional services. Someone was trying to start some agricultural projects, some guest houses or provide some services. On the other hand it was quite expensive, or there was no opportunity to find those kind of services, the Internet to connect, or to sell services.
What the government started, this project was mentioned in 2016. And this will cover all countries and to provide the high-speed Internet and to provide the infrastructure. The government established a separate project in various companies who are responsible for this. And also there is, we achieved some charity fund to finance this project as well.
But we missed this small areas where 200 population. This is impossible to cover all the villages in all areas. And in this regard, it is very important. We had a chance today to discuss this. Psycho-support was very important. This is something, one case which we can spread to other places in Georgia, and especially in the mountain regions.
The initiative from the government was that this initiative came from the NGOs and thanks to Georgian community for this. The government supported for the providing equipment for these people, provide some library space. They are paying some amount for this provision of the services as well. This is a joint project. We are very happy and excited. This is like the cooperation of the NGOs, international societies, and government and also local government are also involved. We think this has huge potential for others. This is crucial for us. In Georgia a number of the tourists are increasing and we are providing the services and we need the same cooperation between the whole society.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Minister for your comments.
Ucha, would you like to talk a bit more in detail about the Tusheti, to add something?
>> UCHA SETURI: Yes, thank you, Maarit. Just a few points about the Tusheti Project. First of all, thank you for a great idea and our appreciation to ISOC, first of all, for this great idea because out of that we met some Members of the society, focus societies. The grantor is a local society members and NGOs. There are 50 guys there. And it is quite important for this area because it is a very high mountainous area. More than 2,000 from the sea level. There are few, maybe up to 100 people who are staying there. On the northern border with Russia, there are too many challenges.
A few points about the network and the memorandum of understanding and what was involved with the parties. First of all, small and micro enterprises were operating in this area. And also technical society members, some other guys from NGOs. Because we were understanding with the government, it is crucial because we are losing these areas because they are all areas of people.
And we created, we are going to create radio, fixed radio network and using cheap equipment because it is very important for Microtec and other brands.
And a few points about the services. Services have to be up to five megabits per second for approximately ten U.S. dollars per month. And a few words about business sustainability of this project. All these Members, it's possible for the services. And all amount is enough for this project, for this network, for developing all this network.
And another point is we are not using electricity and all this equipment. The network is using based on solar energy. I think it that's it.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Thank you, Ucha. I wanted to have a follow-up question. I don't know who would like to pick up on it. As far as I see, I'm going to say that word again, a multistakeholder panel here representing government, industry, and actual project examples. I think there are various lineages whereby various stakeholder groups will have to work together.
One of the point or questions I wanted to ask is, okay, you will have a community network in some village. But the common sense would say: Well, how do we connect to the global Internet? There needs to be some kind of backfall, et cetera. In this case operators, existing operators with existing networks of course play potentially an important role there. How does this cooperation go? And maybe Luca and Ucha, maybe the Deputy Minister would like to comment. Are there challenges? Is this typically an easy process? How do you find your partner in the community to make your network work?
>> LUCA BELLI: Quick comment. Obviously it is extremely important to cooperate, as we all know. There is no successful effort that you can do by yourself. You need to have partners. So that is the also the reason I was saying that the model, the traditional model that has been experimented so far, it doesn't mean that community networks are going to substitute it. But they can work together. Naturally, obviously traditional operators are essential at least as backbone connectivity for local networks, like local communities. And also administrations have an essential role because not only the local administration may help in providing the best environment to develop this kind of initiative, but also the central administration may help defining at least a favorable regulatory environment that reduces all the burdens and all the regulation. It has been studied and conceived for traditional operators, but obviously, for instance, if you think about licenses to be an operator, it is a small community network operated by a nonprofit does not have neither the legal skills nor the funding to apply for licenses and pay for licenses.
So it is kind of absurd that they have to undertake the same process and pay the same fee as a big established operator. So government can, for instance, reduce at least the burden for NGOs that operate community networks or in the best case scenario eliminate the requirement for local operators.
Also with regard to spectrum, the networks usually operate with unallocated spectrum bands. The fact that they can use them legally without having any kind of illegal activity entailed by their initiative, it is something essential as well. And finally, there are also some other legislation that interferes with the community network activities. For instance, in France, the company that wants to protect the copyright but has an ancillary problem. If you share your connection, you are actually liable for sharing the connection. It is illegal actually to share your connection. It is not even proven that it works for copyright infringement, but it also has a side effect to reduce incentive to work within the community network.
There are a couple of things that can be done and the last part about externalities. Community networks carry drop, the network that covers the Catalonia region created jobs. That's something that the government should consider from this perspective.
>> JAN DROEGE: I fully agree, the regulation relationship, they should be very flexible in all their demand-oriented to stimulate this business. On the other hand, there are some risks when the government, like in our case, made a decision when they are entering this sector itself. And first of all, it should be realized that whether this is, whether the providers of the services they are already involved or not, they have this capacity. There should be some incentives from the government side for, first of all, to these providers of the service.
This is the last point. When you are taking responsibility to provide this service, in the long-term perspective it is very important. When you create this business and when you create these jobs or this sector, even in this rural areas, there should be some step out from the government. If there is some market and you create a demand, created some infrastructure and they see that there are opportunities for developing even smaller, there is no role for the government. You should step out. This is what we fully recognize. We are working on these issues as well.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Thank you. Lise? Sorry, Ucha. Ucha, would you like to comment first?
>> UCHA SETURI: Just a few points about the Georgia case. First of all, my members, I'm CEO of the Small and Medium Telecom Operators' Association and my members understand the social responsibility. They are ready to give connection for all these members. In the case of, we are a member of the standing Free NET. Niece funds have two employees and we understand the keepers of the economics. I think about we have also very good -- another point is, the legal environment. There are no permissions or license from the government. You need simple authorization for using this, so on.
The local authorities give permission resulting in extra monies, so on, for the mass and other equipment related to the network.
>> LISE FUHR: I'm almost tempted to say welcome to my world, Luca, on the regulation part. Actually, I must say I agree we should not create barriers that are unduly burdensome for these networks.
I think that most of the regulation that is there is actually to protect the end user. So it is quite complex. It is not easy to actually say where to cut the cake, so to say. I agree that you should look into what is necessary and what is not necessary for these kind of networks.
>> JAN DROEGE: Okay, I have a follow-up question to the connectivity, to the backbone. Sometimes the challenge is, even though there is capacity, there is no access to that capacity because the operator, whoever owns the fiber is not letting anyone in or is using prohibitive pricing or something else to do that. Do you think that there should be some European level regulation to that fiber?
To be honest, the access for using the two megabit per second, all these, that's why it is not a big problem.
Perhaps we can speak about the prices it is higher that my members like to have. It is fully regulated. Access does not exist. The problem is that access to the network does not exist.
>> LISE FUHR: As Jan is saying, this is more for you. And certainly it is, but I think that the key message here is if you see an area where you don't have retail competition, yeah, you need to look at it because we need that actually to keep the prices at a fair level. I have no knowledge of the community driven networks. I don't know if they are ever in a position where they misuse, but if they are nonprofit, I would recognize this would not be a problem.
>> JAN DROEGE: Maybe I can comment on this. I was thinking about the network connecting to the backbone which was your question, but reversely, Luca, I'm afraid it is not always as easy in the EU. If the network has received a subsidy, state aid. Then they are under the obligation to open the network to third-party operators because they become a tele-cooperator. As soon as they have received aid, the network has to be opened which makes the operation as Luca said, much more difficult. This is one of the reasons the networks prefer not to receive aid but do it with their own funds to avoid some of the regulatory requirements.
>> LUCA BELLI: Just to complement this, I think the important issue about a community connectivity that we have to keep in mind is that the fundamental element is the community. So they should be left free to decide how to develop their network and how to structure it. And the fact that many of them are okay with the open network and actually in the Declaration of Connectivity that we have developed at the IGF we also specified that network should be free and open access. But here I speak not from the EU examples but from evidence, for instance in Brazil where I am based, many communities decide to develop intranet because they think that that will be very useful for the community to have local services and maybe they have servers in which they store educational material or other material that is downloaded and then is shared with the community. But that is not properly Internet. It is intranet. That is what the community wants. That is a very good impact on the community as well. So I think that Georgia also should be left free to decide democratically how they want to structure their network. Maybe they are not connecting to the Internet because what would be useful for them is not being connected to the Internet but to an intranet. That is I think a choice that should be left to the community.
I think that this whole effort of empowering the community, giving them at least information to be understand -- I'm going to tweet after a good guide on how to develop your community network. If you want, you can also develop yours. The fact of having information on how to do it, being empowered how to do it and receiving educational information, being able to trade. These are exactly the kind of things that rural communities or people that live in periphery need desperately. They are very angry about. That is the why they are voting for some quite peculiar people lately because they do not have the possibility to do those things that community networks control. That is another positive externality that governments should consider.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Okay. Now, I think, I hope that you have digested your lunch and you would like to take part in this discussion and come up with some questions and comments from your side.
Please, there is a microphone there. You can queue up. I think we only have three in the front.
>> AUDIENCE: So earlier it was said there are a lot of EU funds. And they are not being used completely. So my question is, how can these -- what should happen to make these funds available for community networks?
>> JAN DROEGE: Okay. So the first thing I would like to say, some of the funds are being used and reach their targets. That's what I want to say. Not all of the funds are being used.
The first thing, as I mentioned, the EU has set up the broadband competence tense office support facility running out of Brussels which we coordinate. Each Member State has designated one contact point in many regions. I see Harold here from the BCO in Latvia. So like him, there are 27 others, if I may say, contact points in the Member States whose job it is precisely to overcome these bottlenecks. So I think in that sense this issue is being addressed.
Then I think somebody on the panel mentioned the rules are not always easy. This will be the next stage.
>> LUCA BELLI: If I may also complement, saying another very good effort that has been organised by the European Commission is the promotion of research in this field. And two of the chapters of this book have been authored by members of the Net Commons project, a federation of community networks in Europe and they are brilliant people doing amazing work and describing how they have been organised in their network, how they have been structuring it. There is high level research in the project they are doing. I encourage you both to read what they have written here and Google again Net Commons. You will find -- it's netcommons.eu. You don't even need Google.
>> AUDIENCE: My name is Michael and I want to speak purely on my own behalf. I am not representing anyone. I have just a few comments. The first is, so some of the -- I started getting more involved in the community networking community in general since last year. And especially in my experience so far what I found is that as Luca already said, this can't be emphasized enough. What is really important is that we must focus on what communities need and what they want. That is even more so because number two, and this is in my experience so far, little regulation exists, especially when it comes to community networking. Sometimes this is bad, since regulation can sometimes protect community networks, especially in general, but little regulation can also be a good thing because it increased regulation might end up empowering incumbents which could end up hurting their operations.
But especially if we or if governments and the private sector are committed to connecting the unconnected, something that I was thinking is that perhaps governments and the private sector should encourage their networks and colleagues to support community connectivity in general and not see community networks as a threat. I'm not sure what the politics are behind that and I'm not trying to speak on behalf of anyone, but since community networks tend to be in underserved areas in remote places, often without any access to fiber, I think supporting that is really key to getting the next billion people online.
Specifically, I'm glad, Luca, that you mentioned spectrum. Spectrum is so important when it comes to how community networks function and can proliferate. There are two key questions as well, especially for government. If the EC is considering giving more support to community networks, does the government make experimental licenses available for local access options like community networks? And would a government consider a social license to allow unused or unlicensed spectrum to be allocated say in a village with maybe 3,000 or so people or less? These are two key questions that need to be discussed when talking about how we use spectrum.
Sorry for the long intervention.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Thank you, Michael. Would anybody have any comments on that? Can I ask in the Georgian example, perhaps, the village that is currently being or the region that is currently being connected, I think it's the highest village in Europe, exactly. We have gone for the most difficult case scenario already. And spectrum, of course, was of the essence for that project.
So maybe you would be able to say a bit about the spectrum policy in Georgia as an example?
>> GIORGI CHERKEZISHVILI: Yes, before this, I would just comment about the community. Georgia is not the only case. On the other hand, we also should discuss these opportunities and the initiative from the government side as well. Because government has responsibilities to provide more services which is not accessible to all these people. And government sometimes is paying more money to provide the services to these people in these areas. And this this comes like from both sides, not only from the community side. So this is also very important, that government has some interest to have these communities to have access to this information from the community level. In the Georgian side on this project itself, this is very important issue and very important project because not only this is a high mountain region and one dedicated village, but also we have -- we were talking about this issue today and how we can spread the case and to spread in other regions and in other villages as well. So this is something that we are really going to support on the government level because we have many other projects providing some support for increasing their entrepreneurship in the community to strengthen them. The other from our side, the projects will definitely go when we have resources dedicated and we will work with the international organisations as well. So this is what we can say nowadays.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Thank you very much. Ucha?
>> UCHA SETURI: Spectrum, yes. Well, 12.4 and 5 -- okay. 2.4 and 5 is free and you know these areas are not just a few people. That's why it is useful. And extra unallocated spectrum there.
These areas are outside of the big markets. They don't care about these markets. There are a few guys, huge areas. Fifty villages, that's why the government created some, I would say, government regulates comity shun for excess, so on. But it is outside of its interest. They just need to organise sort of the local community members need a union to establish for their society. It is not only related to the Internet. Same thing with the roads and other services in these areas.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Okay. Luca?
>> LUCA BELLI: I wanted to say about regulation that of course we are all equal in front of the law. In some cases some positive discrimination could be useful. When Lise was saying welcome to my world, thank you. But the thing is also ETNO members have resources and also size that maybe can justify regulation. A community network that provides access to a couple of hundred or a couple of thousand people obviously does not have these kind of resources. Obviously it could be thinkable to have some sort of progressive regulation where very tiny, not for profit community network could be exempted from some regulatory burden. Obviously, a multibillion network that has several million users will have to expect more stringent regulation. That's something that can be considered by regulators and policymakers.
>> LISE FUHR: It might be a more difficult sell.
I'm actually agreeing with you. We shouldn't apply the same regulation and that was also my point. The thing is, what I'm saying is I think it is important not to relax on the end use, on the consumer protection because that is a very important part that I guess even community networks would find is utterly important, that we actually comply with these.
I have another thing on the spectrum because I think spectrum is a different beast here. Spectrum is not an endless resource. It has its limits. And I think while it is interesting to see how you can use spectrum for community networks, it is also a resource that very much is thought about not only by the telecos but also -- sorry, I'm speaking the wrong way with the mic, sorry.
But also with the broadcasters. So we do have a lot of stakeholders here who are interested in this resource. I think we need to be very careful on how we actually work with this.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Thank you. I would be very pleased to hear some comments from the audience. I know we have people from various countries. It would be interesting to hear about the challenge in your country and more specifically also if there was a solution.
So what are your countries doing about the remote connectivity issue? Or perhaps you are an organisation who is involved in that.
Okay. Thank you, Stephen.
>> AUDIENCE: I'm Salami from Lebanon. We have a large number of refugees in Lebanon. I think community networks would be something created from heaven for them. Can you help us? Where can we go? All comments welcome.
>> LUCA BELLI: I'm going to tweet now the guide on how to do it. It is open source, open access for everyone. Everyone will have it starting from in two minutes, will have all the precise guide step-by-step what to do to build a community network. It is the commotion kit, commotion kilt. You will have precise instruction on how to do it.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Stephen, please. Introduce your organisation as well.
>> AUDIENCE: Stephen Wyber, and I'm from the International Federation of Library Associations. You may know my predecessor, Hamilton, who was a frequent guest here.
Life is a Gita.
The argument I was going to make, we have been talking for a long time about public access and the fact having not the connection but the center, a place you can come to, a place you can get used to the working communities, a place where you can up skill, a place where questions are asked and you can access even the hardware to get on to the Internet, which isn't necessarily a given in all situations.
I think the public access logic and the community network logic should be complementary. We fight over which is the first mile. Is it the one that gets the connectivity, the backbone to the library? Is it the mile? Is it the TV white space, the fiber, the cable that goes from the community access hub, the library to the house? I think these are areas which fit nicely together. They are regulatory issues. Certainly there are countries, I think, Colombia, Greece, France, have exceptions which let you take up a bit of TV white space which is inefficiently used spectrum that people can use to get online. These things are developing nicely in the U.S. There has been IMLS that has given money to libraries to build TV white space projects. These are all complementary.
It is terrible to come up to the microphone and talk about yourself and not be on the panel. What is done to actually give people the skills and help people develop the skills necessary to be producing their own content? Because it's a virtuous circle. The more you produce, the more people get into it, the more you produce. What is done in the examples you used to get people into a position where they can enjoy this virtuous circle?
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: It is a key point we haven't touched on yet. Also for the business case for ISPs, there always needs to be demand. And if people don't know how to use the tools or perhaps don't think that the content is interesting, there is no business case. Luca, you had a comment?
>> LUCA BELLI: Reaction, what is done to develop capacities of people that are then involved in the construction of the network and in the use of the network? Two things. First of all, there are essential element of community networks is leadership. Basically all the successful example of community networks include a core of community leaders. There are people that really believe something has to be done and they either already have the skills to do it, to build the network, and to develop software, to develop applications and share them with the community, or they learn those skills and then they share them. Or, this brings me to the second strategy. They simply partner with local institutions and here we come again to the importance of partnership. To develop training people.
I mean, there is a crazy amount of unexplored resources, public resources that could be used to develop partnerships. Local libraries, local administrations, local hospitals, local already training centers, local schools. Local universities. There is an incredible amount of public servants that maybe already are working on this, but simply have never thought about training people for the development of a community network or that simply are not aware about this. So a good also initiative from the government, from a governmental perspective would be a pedagogic initiative, meaning including in school curricula, development, some technical related skills that could help people that maybe could be overly ambitious, but local administration could create -- well, the material I just tweeted is for free. You simply have to find one person that is able to read it and has the time to read it and then explain it to the other. Then it's done. You simply have to do this. So it's pretty easy to implement.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Thank you.
>> Indeed, the broadband in the way or the connectivity is an enabling technology. What you need is the up take to create the impact. I can speak only from the EU point of view but I would say there are three policies or initiatives that the EU is driving around this right now. On the one hand, rural digital hubs to promote, if I may say, innovation and business in rural areas, driven, funded by the EU.
There is the Smart Village Initiative which complements this with, if I may say, the community-led but also the eGovernment enabling technologies. Then the infrastructure, the broadband itself. The EU is trying to bring these three elements together, if I may say precisely to connect the will technology with the up take and the usage. And then the usage aspect, I might just add, the whole aspect of training, skill development is a big part of that. And the EU has been quite active in that sector for a long time.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Okay. Thank you. Please.
>> GIORGI CHERKEZISHVILI: Maybe I will add one additional programme the government of Georgia is providing nowadays. We have a separate agency, innovation and technology agency. We have businesses programme under the World Bank support. We are providing the service to train, to train the trainers and to explain this is tech no parks within these rural areas where there will be opportunities for young people and everyone to get this information and then to get some training in IT solutions. This is something that we have a separate programme for providing and totally support these initiatives.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Yes.
>> UCHA SETURI: Some follow-up about this programme also. We have 50 vouchers for Tusheti members to train about eLearning programme, related to some eLearning, creating web pages and others. They have $80 for some master piece, so on and so on.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: In terms of the, I'm thinking about the business case still.
>> I think the easiest way, we have this connectivity gap in a way. The easiest way to scale and get people connected is really if the industry would simply have a business case to invest. Because they have the scale and the pockets to roll it out at quite some speed.
The second step I think would be then if that's not the case, the government may step in, come up with incentives, et cetera. I'm wondering about the business case, Lise. Your members in terms of demand aggregation activities, is there some industrial leverage as such? It is a business development, if you like.
>> LISE FUHR: Well, actually, what could be helpful is actually to have some investment incentives. And that is for the most part actually regulation, because most telecos are heavily regulated. Especially for the business case on rural areas where there is a tight business case or no business case. Pricing flexibility could be an opportunity. It is a difficult area. We don't see -- we see initiatives in the code that we have right now where you look into co-investment. Co-investment is also a possibility of an investment models. That is actually leaving some pricing flexibilities, but that is going to be challenged by the parliament.
From my side, if we look at the different business models it would be to allow for all technologies. You could use wireless. You could use G.fast. You could use cable technologies. You get very, very good connectivity on many technologies now. That would be very helpful for the business case.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Uh-huh.
>> LISE FUHR: Then the next one is, of course, a different co-investment models could be interesting. Here co-investment models have so far been very much industry-driven. It could be interesting to actually look into the community as a coinvestor. I have no insight to if that has been done by any of the ETNO members, but it is, as I say, I think we should be open to all investment models. It is important that you try to incentivize and help all the different models, both in relation to technology but also in relation to investment.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Yes. Demand aggregation?
>> JAN DROEGE: Yes. I think, Maarit, that's a very good point. Indeed the example we showed at the beginning of the video is basically a frustrated community, if I may say, taking destiny in their hands. Saying we don't get the investment we want. They aggregated a demand from all the community. They had 100 percent coverage in the community.
They then decided to create a cooperative to roll out their own network and run their own network. They might also have gone to operators and, if I may say, awe auction this. Because they, I didn't make a study, I don't know if there was or wasn't a business case, but it is certainly an option. There are several Member States where this is government policy, to encourage such demand aggregation and the example I know best is Denmark where the government actually facilitates through the central government-run website, demand aggregation of underserved areas. The government predefined the less than ten megabit a second areas. If you live in one of those zones in Denmark you can apply through the website of the Ministry. Once you have a critical mass of users in that under serviced areas you go to the operators and ask for a bid, basically it would cost X or Y to connect your zone. Then the community might say, okay, yes, we can. We buy the service. Or they might say okay, we are short X thousand per household or whatever. They can get gap funding, but gap funding for demand from the side of the government to the users. Such models, the mixed model of demand aggregation and funding I think is something that is certainly republic cash balance in other areas. It works well in Denmark because the zones are small and connectivity is already very good. So you have to, I think, tailor your solution to the challenges in your country.
>> LUCA BELLI: Can I add one comment? I think the main added value of government here should be pedagogy and information sharing. I'm a little bit skeptical about building a business case for the reason, building a business case based on the model that we already have is again trying to solve a problem that has been unsolved by the traditional solution, with the same traditional solution.
Let me explain why I'm thinking that. The traditional model works as an Internet consumer that buys access to a service, a good, if you want, that is sold by the provider, right? And this works as long as the provider is interested in providing the service or the good and the consumer has the money or the interest to buy it.
It is quite evident, I mean, there is clear evidence. 4 billion people are unconnected. There are 30 percent coverage in rural areas. That is to me quite clear evidence that this model is not really fit for the purpose of connecting rural areas.
On the other hand, you have communities that build their own model and in that case the paradigm is not Internet access sold as a good, but is the community becoming the first mile. That is the reason why I was using the difference between last mile and first mile. It is the community that is not only the consumer, it is also the producer of connectivity. I mean, the Internet is aimed at being a network of networks. So let's give the people the possibility to build their own network and interconnect it.
So I think that the main point here is trying to involve the government, not in trying to repropose the same solution with a different name, but this sharing, being active in sharing the knowledge of how to do it and again the documents I've just shared are in open access. It is simply a matter of sharing them perhaps through public libraries or local administrations.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: There is complementarity, as I said before. Because of the urgency of the issue, let's say, I think the different solutions can and should go in parallel. It is exciting to hear about the demand aggregation, that people take destiny into their own hands and start raising the business case and also about the co-investment models so IPSs are willing to negotiate and perhaps coming, if either government puts some money or maybe community comes up with some money. Then, of course, we have the first mile scenario whereby community is so independent and competent and capable that they simply want to run it themselves.
>> LISE FUHR: I wanted to say on the numbers, we have only 30 percent covered with fast speed broadband. We actually have coverage that is close to 90. It is not perfect, I agree. I just -- I think it is very important that we look at those last 10 percent and say those are extremely important because we need to include everyone. But it is not only 30 percent that are not covered in Europe. I am not talking about the rest of the world, but in Europe we have quite widespread connectivity. But we need to make it better and we need to do it fast.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Please, we have a comment, Michael.
>> AUDIENCE: Yes, that is a perfect segue point because when it comes to connecting the unconnected, when it comes to especially supporting community networking, something that has to be taken into event that we already broached a bit is sustainability both in terms of human resources. If equipment breaks down and it is far away from the cities, let's say, do people have the ability to repair that equipment themselves? Are they empowered with that knowledge?
But aside from that it is also the basic electrification. Because a lot of the community networks around the world or remote areas, they don't have access necessarily to grid electricity, much less to Internet. How can one power routers or devices if they don't even have the electricity to do it.
Supporting electrification, supporting specifically renewable energy. I love the fact that in Georgia you are already empowering with solar panels. The IXP in Armenia, they are already using solar to help lower their energy costs at the Internet exchange point.
The point is that by emphasizing sustainable energy as well, that's another way that we are going to ensure that overall these community networking initiatives or anyway that communities are getting connected are going to stay connected, are going to be able to continue to use the Internet in that way. Sorry, that was a comment.
A question would be, do you have any frameworks, do you have any mechanisms, either from the government or from the private sector that you can speak to that could potentially support this kind of renewable energy or electrification to help community networking?
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Do we have any energy ...
>> UCHA SETURI: To be honest, we have no choice. Because all of this demand ... This is difficult because you have to put up all these solar panels, all this stuff.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Also there is geographical specificities. If you go to the sparsely populated areas in Lapland, maybe it is not as interesting solution.
>> This is nothing to do with why I'm here but in my previous job I had an assignment in Nigeria for eSchools project and that didn't happen because of the CapEx cost of solar panels. It is the solar panels that killed the project and the fact that they kept disappearing. This is a major bottleneck, as you say. You are quite right, the connectivity is not just the data connectivity. You need the power as well. In some parts of the world that is still a big challenge. Even though the technology of solar panels theoretically is a no brainer, if I may say, in many part of the world. But the CapEx is quite high. Also the fact that they are quite handy for other people and easy to carry away, apart from the school, makes it tricky.
>> LUCA BELLI: I would like to thank Michael for raising the issue and being so vocal in raising these things because there is a connection between these two things. Indeed I will make again the example of Nepal where you can imagine if you had to climb some Himalayan mountain there is no power there. You have to build a WiFi tower with a solar panel. Indeed the greatest amount of money you have to spend, the seed money goes to solar panels.
On the other hand, I think we have reasons to be optimistic. Over the past, when was the project with Nigeria that you were working on, but over the past really two, maybe one year and a half period, the price of solar panels, as the price of other equipment that is used for routing, for instance, in community networks has substantially decreased.
So the prices nowadays start to be -- I am not going to say it is really cheap, but it is kind of affordable. If you have a community of 150, 200 people chipping in, the amount is really reasonable. If you partner with other institutions as I was saying before, you can even decrease the cost of connectivity. I would provide another example. A dear friend of mine, Nicholas, he has developed the project in Argentina and they share the connectivity with the University of Cordoba and they had enough connectivity to reach the university.
What is interesting and makes it sustainable, they share capacity. During the day, the university gets the highest amount of capacity because there are students, and in the network people are working in the network, in the village, the community where he lives. But at night where there are essentially no students need the capacity for which the university has paid, necessity get the greatest amount of capacity because there are people there using the Internet connection.
I think that the great initiative of the commission of creating your new office is to finally have some vision on this and to say we have, if we don't organise people, if we organise people it is not that difficult to do it. But we have to organise people to do it.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Lise, please, your comment?
>> LISE FUHR: I just wanted to say that ETNO, we are a member of the global eSustainability initiative and our members are certainly taking this very seriously. This is the only way to go in order to actually create a global sustainability. So from that side, yes, we are looking at it, taking it seriously. It is, of course, up to a different member on how they actually do this and implement it.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Ucha, please, you had a comment? Or Giorgi?
>> GIORGI CHERKEZISHVILI: Sorry, I wanted to add a few words about the energy issues and sustainability of providing this. This is just one region, Tusheti, at certain times there was no electricity in the road and now the government started to construct the road, and this will be, the region will be more connected to the others.
Also in Georgia, the second in the world with use of hydro resources outside of Norway. We had the ability to build small and medium sized power plants. It depends on the case and the site itself. Sometimes it is better for solar, better for hydro. So this is depending on the village to decide for itself.
Once again the one issue regarding the sustainability, the Ministry of Economics, our name is Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Resources of Georgia. We take responsibility for the sustainability, and efficiency issues. Georgia became part of the European Union and we take huge responsibility. All these years, this will be in place and we hope this will be very successful for us as well.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Thank you.
>> UCHA SETURI: Few notes about the budget. In the beginning it was 50 percent of money, the solar panels, all this related stuff. This year we bought these, we spent 20 percent for all the amount of this project. Huge money.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Significant, yes.
We still have ten minutes left. Audience, any further inputs? Questions?
No? Lunch is still heavy on our stomachs.
I wanted to explore the government and the role of policy a bit further. The business case we discussed at quite some length and we said that government's role instead of a facilitator and there are various regulatory issues that are difficult and need to be looked at, which we all agree on.
However, some countries have been a bit more radical in terms of the visionary leadership of connectivity. And I think, I'm from Finland. Finland was one of the first ones who made the Internet, and perhaps not totally the correct translation, but a fundamental right for its citizens. So they put it actually into law in writing and made the Internet connectivity some kind of right to citizens. We have Finnish colleagues here who I am going to pick on. This already happened in 2010, so seven years ago. What is the current status? Does this kind of top-down policy effort make a difference? Is it now effective? I don't know myself the statistics, but did it work? Was there a birth in investment and did it help?
>> JAN DROEGE: I do know there happens to be someone from the Finnish Ministry of transport in the room. I leave it to him if he's willing to say something, but I want to say that even though it was in the media they said that Finland made the Internet a fundamental human right or something like that. That is not totally correct. It was legislation on the universal service obligations. So it is not that fancy, but ...
>> AUDIENCE: Yes, I'm from the Ministry of Public Transport and Communications. Yes, Internet access is a universal service in Finland. In 2010 it was one megabit per second. And then a couple of years ago it was increased to two megabit per second. So we can do any 3D applications with that but basic services we can do.
The meaning of this regulation was that it is only a few people who bought that service because private operators offered them commercial access with global prices. That was the reality with the regulation. But however, it helped. But now everybody in Finland has access wherever they live. So that's the situation. And we have plans to increase it to ten megabits per second in a couple of years if it is needed. Now that is the discussion, if it is any more needed because we have so good coverage with 4G mobile networks.
>> JAN DROEGE: Actually I would like to add what is happening in Finland, rural areas, operators are replacing the old copper land lines with 4G. The people don't anymore have the fixed access, but they have 4G and then 5G when it comes. And the coverage is quite good, but it is not without its problems.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Yes, thank you for that. We had a question on the floor?
>> AUDIENCE: This is probably an update and partly a question. In the United States many of you may know that the Obama Administration put a national broadband plan in in 2010 with bold goals about broadband deployment. That was something people across the political spectrum agreed upon. But there was not a lot of follow-through.
My organisation, I'm barren stoker from tech freedom. We suggested that our FCC should study the issues that were not studied in detail in the national broadband plan. We called for abroad band deployment advisory counsel and our new FCC Chairman set that up. The BDAC has begun its work and organised four working groups to collect expertise from across Civil Society, from companies, from local governments, state governments and federal governments to study why broadband deployment is difficult and what can be done at every level of government, local, state, tribal governments and our federal government, to make broadband deployment easier.
I want to make everyone in this room aware of this. I think it is a good model for the rest of the world to follow because even if you want the sorts of solutions that have primarily been discussed today, there's a lot of things that could be done in policy at every level, from building codes and how a wiring is done in new construction to street construction. And in particular, to 5G, where you need to have a new paradigm of how to use public assets like posts and street lamps, making those fiber accessible and make can it possible to use those to install antennas could allow you to do gigabit speed deployment from private providers without having to wire every building.
That is a general update.
My question for the panel is: What do you think, what should happen or what is happening in your countries or in Europe along those lines to, if you will, to study the problem from the bottom up and to look at not how do we build a single network but rather how do we analyze the landscape? How do we look at the specific practices, the specific fees, the specific red tape that is in place that might make broadband deployment more difficult? How do we get those policies better in order to stimulate more deployment?
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Thank you.
>> JAN DROEGE: Okay, thank you very much. Maybe I'll do a first reaction and I'm sure everybody has something to say on this one. But each Member State in the European Union has to have in place the NGA plan. What you just called the bottom up, each government has to assess, okay, where are my shortcomings, the bottlenecks, how can they be addressed to address the EU targets of 30 megabit coverage by 2020 and 100 percent of one megabit.
New targets are in thought for 2025, but right now we have aim at these targets. There is not a single answer. Each region has its own bottlenecks to overcome. This analysis has been done. Next year is in fact the deadline, or the next milestone for updating these plans country by country.
I mention this because these plans are also the precondition for governments to receive subsidies from the EU for investment in broadband. The plans have to be in place and comply with EU legislation so that the countries or governments have access to the subsidies from the EU for broadband deployment. Maybe that answers one step on that.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Thank you. Lise?
>> LISE FUHR: Well, the EU, the gigabit vision which was created before you actually are starting the revision of the framework, that was followed by a lot of public consultation. So if you are to look at it as a bottom-up approach, this is the closest I think we've come to this, where everyone was able to actually express what was good and bad with the current regulation and actually also on how to reach the gigabit visions, goals.
I think in Europe it is a bit tricky because you have 28 Member States that have 28 systems that. Trying to squeeze that into harmonisation, but we all have different premises on how to do things. So every market is still different and every community is still different. So while I think it is important that we harmonise, we have to respect that the markets are different.
>> Actually, on this letter, two-letter comment. I think that is exactly the kind of mind set we should have. There is not a silver bullet. The fact that one approach has worked in a specific country or is working in a specific country doesn't mean that it will work in other countries. This is not only at the country level but at the community level.
Another element that I think explains some of the success, or successful initiatives both at the national level and at the community level is the need for an integrated approach, meaning that I think the great mistake of some countries and some governments has been to have a myopic approach and only focus on infrastructure. Thinking that if they have investment on infrastructure, everyone will be connected and using the Internet very well.
They have missed the creation of content and services. First and foremost, education of citizens. I don't think it odd that Finland is topping this. They understand how to use the Internet, they produce services and content. They actively participate. Another flagrant example is South Korea. In the '90s they launched the Internet, they launched infrastructure but also pedagogic approaches to teach the people how to participate in the Internet.
>> MAAARIT PALOVIRTA: We are out of time. Any final comments? We are okay? I want to wrap up the workshop. As usual, we have had a couple of rapporteurs here who have been working very hard taking notes and trying to conclude our discussion that was going into different directions.
I would like so ask Tessel maybe, do we have a microphone? Just to conclude with a couple of three bullet points what you heard today and try to wrap up the discussion like that? Thank you.
>> TESSEL RENZENBRINK: I have three points. They are summaries and recommendations, but maybe for the time I just go to the recommendations or do you also want to hear the summary?
The community network model provides viable alternative. The recommendation is promote the community network model as an additional model for connecting underserved areas.
And the question is: If you agree this is a recommendation.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: We have a lot of nodding heads.
>> TESSEL RENZENBRINK: There are beneficial externalities to the community model. People understand how the network works, they get access to things but it strengthens. It is important to share knowledge on how to set up community networks by making partnerships like the researchers as well as through NGOs and institutions like the broadband competence office.
Sharing knowledge is a recommendation and the other on this point is communities should be free to decide how they structure their networks, structure their network.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Well, that is a visionary one. If they have the competence. If they have the competence and if it is within the local policy, I suppose, and regulatory framework.
>> TESSEL RENZENBRINK: The last one is cooperation is important. Everybody has a role to play. The traditional operators provide the backbone. Governments can promote community networks and provide a favorable regulatory environment. Recommendations, I think this was the strongest of all, is to reduce the regulatory burden for community networks. Make social licenses to operate available and free access to unallocated spectrum bands. This last one about the spectrum bands was under discussion. Some people agreed with it and others were against it. That is contested.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Yes, yes, I think exactly. That is an ambition from the community side. Probably not reality today, but yes.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Tessel, and thank you to our panelist the. We have a coffee break. We are five minutes into it. Thank you very much, everybody.
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