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Unleashing Community Networks: Innovative Licensing Approaches

The Internet Society (ISOC) aims to make the Internet available for everyone, everywhere.[1] ISOC works with industry, government, academia, and other organizations worldwide to support innovation and growth of the open Internet. For over 25 years, ISOC has helped to connect individuals in virtually every country to the Internet. Part of our mission includes highlighting key policy issues related to connectivity. This “Policy Brief” is part of a series of briefs related to our Community Network campaign — one of our four Strategic Campaign Objectives for 2018,[2] and it complements our “Policy Brief: Spectrum Approaches for Community Networks.”[3]

After more than 25 years of Internet development, there still remains a profound connectivity “gap” in many parts of the world, particularly in developing nations, leaving over half the global population without Internet access[4]—3.58 billion people currently have Internet access.[5] This connectivity “gap” exists in urban, rural, and remote unserved and underserved areas of many countries, particularly developing and least-developed countries.[6]

The consequences of being unconnected are well documented.[7] Internet access enables socio-economic development, and those without access are left behind, facing tremendous competitive and economic disadvantage. Better connectivity and the exchange of information strengthens democratic processes, spurs economic growth, and enables sharing of culture and ideas in ways previously unimaginable. Accordingly, the United Nations seeks, as part of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to “significantly increase access to information and communications technology” and “strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020.”[8]

As we note above, this paper aims to build on our “Spectrum Paper,” and to focus specifically on innovative licensing options for community networks. Networks that have developed due to work by stakeholders around the globe and innovative policy-makers and regulators taking action to support complementary ways to connect the underserved. Community networks are working with policymakers and regulators who, in turn, are enabling communities to connect via community-built networks—networks developed by local communities, with local communities, for local communities. Through common sense regulatory and policy change and dialogue with community network advocates, government can unleash the potential of community networks and allow unserved and underserved areas to realize the transformative benefits of having access to affordable connectivity.
-- from the Introduction


[1] The Internet Society’s goal supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of achieving universal and affordable access to the Internet. See Sustainable Development Goal 9, United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,
[2] Kathryn C. Brown, President and CEO, Internet Society, The Internet Society 2018 Action Plan: Presentation to Board of Trustees (Nov. 19, 2017),
[3] Internet Society, Policy Brief: Spectrum Approaches for Community Networks (Oct. 10, 2017), [PDF versions in Spanish and English also available in this Web portal]
[4] Internet Society Global Internet Report 2017: Paths to Our Digital Future, Internet Society, at 79 (2017),
[5] International Telecommunication Union, The State of Broadband: Broadband Catalyzing Sustainable Development, at 10 (September 2017),
[6] See Leandro Navarro, et al., Advances in Wireless Community Networks with Community-Lab Testbed, at 1 (2016),
[7] See World Bank, World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends (2016),; United Nations, Press Release: Closing Digital Divide Critical to Social, Economic Development, Delegates Say at Second Committee Debate on Information and Communications Technology (Oct. 28,  2015),; Internet Society, Policy Brief: Spectrum Approaches for Community Networks (Oct. 10, 2017),; Ritu Srivastava, Community Networks: Regulatory Issues and Gaps—An Experience from India (Oct. 5, 2017),; Vassilis Chryssos, Building a Sustainable Community Network in Sarantaporo Greece (Feb. 10, 2018),
[8] Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations,


Vídeo (presented at the Caribbean IGF 2018):

The attached PDF document was published by the Internet Society in May, 2018.