A blueprint for financing community connectivity providers
Since the pandemic, there’s been a growing understanding of the economic and human costs of a world in which half the population lives without internet access and the tools needed to meaningfully participate in a digital society.
This has come with a new energy to tackle the problem. But the discussions among policymakers, development experts, philanthropy, and corporations too often focus on how only much money is needed and not enough on how money needs to be used differently.
To help progress the conversation, we commissioned a report with our partners at the Internet Society and the Association for Progressive Communications, published today, on Financing mechanisms for locally-owned internet infrastructure.
The second half of humanity will not be connected in the same way as the first — namely, by large incumbent telecommunications companies. It’s not in their business models to invest in low-income and rural communities where profit margins don’t meet their expectations.
We need to do things differently. Globally there is a growing movement of community connectivity providers — including community networks, municipal networks, cooperatives, and social enterprises — connecting underserved communities, often at faster speeds and lower prices than incumbent providers.
These are the networks we need to promote, support, and invest in. Yet, almost all of them struggle to access capital. To ensure their success, we need to cultivate the financial infrastructure that will allow community connectivity providers to grow and scale.
The report is designed to provide an understanding about what these providers look like, an overview of the range of ownership and operating models available to communities looking to build their own internet infrastructure, and a primer on some of the capital tools available to help sustainably finance different models. It is a practical tool for both those who want to build networks as well as for funders and investors.
The report’s 10 case studies show where and how community connectivity providers are already getting the job done and demonstrate how underserved communities can build their own internet infrastructure and take control of their digital futures.
We hope it will catalyze more funding for community connectivity providers and accelerate access to digital tools so that everyone can fully participate in our digitalizing world.
A huge thanks to Connectivity Capital — which led authorship of the report. And to everyone at the Association of Progressive Communications and the Internet Society who made it happen.
Read the report and explore interactive report highlights.
Jochai is Chief Executive at Connect Humanity