Community-led networks democratize web - Albuquerque Journal

Community-led networks democratize web

In 2012, six teenagers and young adults from the Ochiichagwe’Babigo’Ining Ojibway Nation in Ontario – tired of having little internet connectivity on their rural tribal lands – took matters into their own hands. A year later, they launched the First Nations community ISP, offering high speed, unlimited bandwidth broadband service for $40 a month to anyone who wants it.

This is one of the best examples of a rural indigenous community forging its own path to the network, but it’s certainly not the only one.

Community internet networks like this – DIY infrastructures created by and for groups of individual citizens to meet their own communications needs – are increasingly being built and employed as an effective and affordable connectivity option in regions where the geography is a challenge and internet service is either nonexistent or big service providers have too little competition to be affordable.

On the Eastern Cape of South Africa, in Mankosi, one community created its own telephone and internet company. In Guerroro, Mexico, another community built a wireless network that provides access to emergency resources. And in Chanderi, India, internet connectivity and education through the Wireless for Communities project has fostered micro-enterprises that have helped household incomes double since 2010.

This community networking movement is an important one to all of us. At its most basic, the internet brings health care and educational options to people in underserved areas. But in the right hands, it can also spark ideas, innovation and economic development that can reverberate with opportunity across entire regions.

What this means is that if the internet isn’t in the hands of everyone, we’re missing genius – and nowhere does that potential loss feel more acute than in a place as culturally rich, and creatively prolific, as New Mexico.

So how far do we have to go? According to the Federal Communications Commission’s most recent Broadband Progress Report, 10 percent of all Americans lack access to quality, high-speed internet, compared to 4 percent of urban Americans. This number jumps to 39 percent for rural Americans. The divide is even more stark for those living on tribal lands, where 41 percent lack access to high-speed internet, and 68 percent living on rural tribal lands don’t have internet access at all.

Just as technology has played an ongoing and irrefutable role in bridging cultural and economic divides, the lack of technology has the opposite effect. It’s now more urgent than ever to recognize that if we are going to be able to build a digital future that benefits everyone, we need to embrace new ways of working and new ways of thinking about the issue of internet connectivity. We need to consider community networks as an option within reach, and we need new ways of sharing information and best practices about building them.

We’re taking an important step in that direction with the Indigenous Connectivity Summit (this Wednesday and Thursday), Nov. 8-9. Presented by the Internet Society, in partnership with its newly launched New Mexico Chapter, New Mexico Techworks, the 1st-Mile Institute and the First Mile Connectivity Consortium, the summit will bring indigenous people from around the world together to share how they have successfully built and utilized networks in their own communities – on their own terms.

The free two-day event at the Hotel Santa Fe will facilitate dialogue between community network managers/operators, indigenous-owned internet service providers, community members, researchers, policy makers and indigenous leadership. Dialogue will address building and using a network, with topics including using digital platforms for cultural preservation. And while the goal is to support increased network access for indigenous communities, anyone interested in building a network is welcome.

Through community-led networks, we can finally democratize connectivity in the United States, and there’s no better place than New Mexico to serve as the catalyst.


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
Sunport has second-busiest stretch in 20 months
ABQnews Seeker
65,000 holiday travelers reported over 5-day ... 65,000 holiday travelers reported over 5-day period
2
New trial begins for Rio Arriba sheriff
ABQnews Seeker
James Lujan is charged with helping ... James Lujan is charged with helping a friend avoid arrest in 2017
3
Elk poached at Bandelier National Monument
ABQnews Seeker
Park rangers are seeking the public's ... Park rangers are seeking the public's help in finding those responsible for that killing, as well as the death of a mule deer
4
NMSU has nutty idea for citations
ABQnews Seeker
Donations of peanut butter will be ... Donations of peanut butter will be accepted in lieu of some parking fines
5
1 killed in fight south of UNM
ABQnews Seeker
Homicide detectives are investigating after a ... Homicide detectives are investigating after a man died in a fight in an alley near the University of New Mexico Monday night. Officer Daren ...
6
Police say driver in fatal DWI crash traveling at ...
ABQnews Seeker
19-year-old was arrested four days earlier ... 19-year-old was arrested four days earlier in Roswell drunken-driving wreck
7
NM weighs use of federal money for broadband
ABQnews Seeker
Stimulus, infrastructure bills offer chance, legislators ... Stimulus, infrastructure bills offer chance, legislators told
8
NM has no omicron cases, but struggles with delta ...
ABQnews Seeker
Signs show virus surge could be ... Signs show virus surge could be slowing in state
9
DA removed from homicide case
ABQnews Seeker
FARMINGTON – A New ... FARMINGTON – A New Mexico judge has ruled that a district attorney's office must be replaced ...