Alternative Networks: Toward Global Access to the Internet for All

Abstract

It is often said that the Internet is ubiquitous in our daily lives, but this holds true only for those who can easily access it. In fact, billions of people are still digitally disconnected, as bringing connectivity to certain zones does not make a good business case. The only solution for these unsatisfied potential users is to directly undertake the building of the infrastructure required to obtaining access to the Internet, typically forming groups in order to share the corresponding cost. This article presents a global classification and a summary of the main characteristics of different Alternative Network deployments that have arisen in recent years with an aim to provide Internet services in places where mainstream network deployments do not exist or are not adequate solutions. The "Global Access to the Internet for All" Research Group of the Internet Research Task Force, where all authors actively participate, is interested in documenting these emerging deployments. As an outcome of this work, a classification has converged by consensus, where five criteria have been identified and, based on them, four different types of Alternative Networks have been identified and described with real-world examples. Such a classification is useful for a deeper understanding of the common characteristics behind existing and emerging Alternative Networks.

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