16.11.14 - 21.11.14, Seminar 14471

Towards an Affordable Internet Access for Everyone: The Quest for Enabling Universal Service Commitment

Diese Seminarbeschreibung wurde vor dem Seminar auf unseren Webseiten veröffentlicht und bei der Einladung zum Seminar verwendet.


The Internet Society’s recent global Internet survey reveals that the Internet should be considered as a basic human birthright. On one end, we have the developed world where access is getting faster and services being developed to utilize faster access. On the other end, there are people who do not have access to the Internet at all. Some may not be able to get it due to lack of infrastructure support (which accounts to the notion of digital divide problem faced by most people in developed countries). There have been significant initiatives to solve the problem of affordable infrastructure. Crucially, most of these approaches address infrastructural barriers without addressing economic ones. Leaving connectivity for all to be governed by market economics is a major impediment to achieving the full benefits of the Internet, and that basic Internet access should be made freely available to all due to its societal benefits. The current Internet access model governed by market economics makes it practically infeasible for enabling universal access especially for those with socio-economic barriers. The value chains do not reflect the technical development – as made obvious by recent debates between operators and content providers.

There are both research and policy challenges to the realization of a future Internet capability that will offer appropriate access to all parts of society. The current Internet architecture is progressively reaching a saturation point in meeting increasing user's expectations and behaviors as well as progressively showing inability to efficiently respond to new technological challenges (in terms of security, scalability, mobility, availability, and manageability) but also socio-economical challenges. This widening range of requirements imposed on the Internet architecture leads to a growing collection of solutions, which each in their own right address a set of requirement while driving forward the fragmentation that ultimately stands in the way of achieving the digital inclusion vision. In contrast to the way the current Internet has evolved, the development of the next generation network will demand both collaboration and a shared vision between researchers, corporations, community groupings and governments. There can be no single uniform solution that embraces all types of user and all locations. We need an infrastructure that combines different transmission technologies, while at the same time support an increasingly diverse range of Internet applications. The research community should also encourage, identify and architect new modes of access that could increase the efficiency of the usage of existing communication resources, enhance cooperation among operators, cooperation among end users, improving access/accounting on a per service basis rather than on a pervolume basis, enable “sponsoring” of access to communication as such as well as to selected services.

This seminar will address the problem of digital exclusion. We intend to focus mainly on the exclusion caused due to fundamental socio-economic barriers. But we would like also to pay attention to specific types of exclusion – like temporal exclusion caused by catastrophes (in terms of an earthquake or tsunami) and malicious activities. In such situations, the poorest communities suffer the most (as their houses might suffer from the lower structural safety). Technologies that do not require an infrastructure setup (for e.g. satellite) may be expensive. Hence the use of technologies that enable cooperative networking – e.g. multi-hop ad-hoc set-ups, or delay tolerant communication based approaches might save lives, and mitigate suffering of numerous victims.

Through this seminar, we are hoping to break the current mould of thinking that connectivity has to be governed by the laws of economics. New business models might emerge that allow buying or subscribing to services (including the access) rather than the access itself. This might allow governments, charities etc, the option to provide selected set of services to those in need. On the other hand there are interesting possibilities to follow the way of benevolent “donations” of access - sharing of unused capacity such as donors sharing their home broadband connections or their mobile Internet or network operators giving away their unused capacity. It is virtually impossible to solve the problem of digital inclusion due to socio-economic barriers without fundamental overhaul in government policies. Governments should change their policy to encourage these initiatives - by providing incentives to network providers who distribute their unused capacity or allow their customers to share their capacity. Telecom regulators should be open for change. In this seminar we will also explore new economic models and incentives that might enable such innovative approaches as well as the legal and policy challenges that are needed to overcome.

The seminar will address a range of research questions in terms of Computer Science (feasibility, scalability, security, new privacy challenges, robustness, resource allocation, performance etc.) as well as other disciplines such as Economics (new value chains, micro behaviors chosen by users to reverse the operator dominance), Legal, Policy Research and Sociology. These questions are not only of academic interest but concern the private, public, and commercial spheres as well.