Dagstuhl Seminar 14471
Towards an Affordable Internet Access for Everyone: The Quest for Enabling Universal Service Commitment
( Nov 16 – Nov 21, 2014 )
- Jon Crowcroft (University of Cambridge, GB)
- Adam Wolisz (TU Berlin, DE)
- Arjuna Sathiaseelan (University of Cambridge, GB)
- Annette Beyer (for administrative matters)
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.
Universal Internet Access is considered as one of the fundamental requirements in todays digital age as clean water, roads, schools etc. Enabling universal Internet access is one of the key issues that is being currently addressed at the European level via the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) as well as globally. Recognising the importance of broadband Internet, several developed countries have their own national broadband plan, such as the Broadband Development UK (BDUK) in the UK and the National Broadband Plan in the USA.
However a lack of access to the Internet and broadband is a global phenomenon that proportionately and negatively affects the poorest countries in world, where challenges to socio-economic development are most pronounced. It is estimated that only 41% of the worlds households are connected to the Internet. Half of them are in less developed countries, where household Internet penetration has reached 28%. This is in stark contrast to the 78% of households in more developed countries.
The disparity in access is even more worrying when one realises that the positive impact of increased Internet and broadband access is greater than any other ICT. In 2009, the World Bank found that in low and middle-income countries a 10% increase in broadband Internet penetration accelerated economic growth by 1.38%. Moreover, the positive effect of Internet and broadband on economic growth and social development are felt more in less developed countries, like those in sub-Saharan Africa, than in more developed countries, creating opportunities for levelling up and greater equality.
The main barriers to the economic growth and social benefits identified by the World Bank include the cost of services and a lack of access to terrestrial and wireless networks. Indeed, there is general consensus upon the impact of these challenges, especially that of cost. Brahima Sanou, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) at the ITU notes Broadband is still too expensive in developing countries, where it costs on average more than 100 per cent of monthly income, compared with 1.5 per cent in developed countries. There are indeed several challenges (political, regulatory, socio-economical, technological) to the realization of a Future Internet capability that will offer appropriate access to all parts of society.
The goal of our seminar was to bring together an interdisciplinary group of researchers from academia and research organisations as well as industry to understand the different challenges in enabling universal Internet access and to discuss potential solutions for solving some of the challenges.
This report provides an overview of the talks that were given during the seminar. We also had a dedicated breakout session with two groups specifically focussing on Socio-Economic Models and Role of Community Networks and Internet in a box. We also had longer informal discussions on specific focussed topics. The discussions and outcomes are summarised in this report.
We would like to thank all presenters, scribes and participants for their contributions and lively discussions. Particular thanks go to the team of Schloss Dagstuhl for their excellent organisation and support.
- Panayotis Antoniadis (ETH Zürich, CH) [dblp]
- Roger Baig Vinas (Guifi.net - Barcelona, ES) [dblp]
- Saleem Bhatti (University of St. Andrews, GB) [dblp]
- Georg Carle (TU München, DE) [dblp]
- Weverton Cordeiro (Federal Institute of Pará - Itaituba, BR) [dblp]
- Jon Crowcroft (University of Cambridge, GB) [dblp]
- Roderick Fanou (IMDEA Networks - Madrid, ES)
- Michael P. Fourman (University of Edinburgh, GB) [dblp]
- Thomas Hühn (TU Berlin, DE) [dblp]
- Karin Anna Hummel (ETH Zürich, CH) [dblp]
- Renato Lo Cigno (University of Trento, IT) [dblp]
- Leonardo Maccari (Università di Trento, IT) [dblp]
- Mahesh Marina (University of Edinburgh, GB) [dblp]
- Leandro Navarro (Polytechnical University of Catalunya - Barcelona, ES) [dblp]
- Irene Ng (University of Warwick, GB) [dblp]
- Jörg Ott (Aalto University, FI) [dblp]
- Fernando M. V. Ramos (University of Lisboa, PT) [dblp]
- Arjuna Sathiaseelan (University of Cambridge, GB) [dblp]
- Henning Schulzrinne (Columbia University - New York, US) [dblp]
- Gareth Tyson (Queen Mary University of London, GB) [dblp]
- Falk Von Bornstaedt (Deutsche Telekom - Bonn, DE) [dblp]
- Klaus Wehrle (RWTH Aachen, DE) [dblp]
- Michael Welzl (University of Oslo, NO) [dblp]
- Adam Wolisz (TU Berlin, DE) [dblp]
- Rüdiger Zarnekow (TU Berlin, DE) [dblp]
- Marco Zennaro (ICTP - Trieste, IT) [dblp]
- Anatolij Zubow (TU Berlin, DE) [dblp]
- society / human-computer interaction
- world wide web / internet
- Information Society
- Information Access