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POLICY PAPERCommunityNetworksREGULATORY ISSUES AND GAPSEXPERIENCES FROM INDIAAUTHOR: Ritu Srivastava (Digital Empowerment Foundation)EDITORS: Konstantinos Komaitis (ISOC), Jane Coffin (ISOC),Mike Jensen (APC) and Michael Oghia (ISOC)REVIEWER: Osama Manzar (Digital Empowerment Foundation)Community Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India 1

CommunityNetworksREGULATORY ISSUES AND GAPSEXPERIENCES FROM INDIAAuthor: Ritu Srivastava, Digital Empowerment FoundationEDITORS: Konstantinos Komaitis, ISOC; Jane Coffin, ISOC;Mike Jensen, APC; and Michael Oghia, ISOCREVIEWER: Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation

Community Networks: Regulatory issues and gapsExperiences from IndiaThis work is licensed under a creative commons Attribution 4.0 International License.You can modify and build upon this document non-commercially, as long as you give creditto the original authors and license your new creation under the identical terms.Written by Ritu SrivastavaEdited by Konstantinos Komaitis, Jane Coffin, Mike Jensen, and Michael OghiaReviewed by Osama ManzarCover designed by Ravi Kumar YadavDesign & layout by Ravi Kumar YadavPublished & distributed by Digital Empowerment FoundationYou can read the online copy at Empowerment FoundationHouse No. 44, 2nd & 3rd Floor (Next to Naraina IIT Academy)Kalu Sarai, (Near IIT Flyover), New Delhi – 110016Tel: 91-11-42233100 / Fax: 91-11-26532787Email: URL:

ContentsAcknowledgements 7Acronyms & Abbreviations8Executive Summary 12Introduction 14Research Objective 16Methodology 16Section I: Definition of Community Network Community Network Models in India1718Section II: DEF Wireless for Community (W4C) Network Project21Section Iii: Public Policy and Regulatory Environment Issues Unlicensed Spectrum & Spectrum Sharing – Global Perspective India: Policy & Regulatory Environment252527Section Iv: Indirect Policy & Regulatory Challenges Hamperingthe Growth of Community Networks in India32Section V: Recommendations 36Annexure A: Semi-Structured Interview Rubric42

AcknowledgementsThis paper reflects views and opinions of community network providers who are trying tobuild their own low-cost and effective infrastructure for providing Internet connectivity. Wewould like to express our gratitude to all the stakeholders and members from communitynetworks that provided their input. The report improved considerably thanks to the feedbackfrom those who read its initial versions: Konstantinos Komaitis, Jane Coffin, Mike Jensen,and Michael Oghia. Special thanks to Ritu Srivastava for making this report possible.Furthermore, we would like to thank the Internet Society, which commissioned this researcheffort and provided generous support and guidance.Community Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India 7

ACRONYMS & ABBREVIATIONS3GThird-generation wireless mobile telecommunications4GFourth-generation wireless mobile telecommunicationsAAIAirports Authority of IndiaAGRAdjusted gross revenueANATELNational Telecommunications Agency of BrazilBDMABeam Division Multiple AccessBSLBasic service licensesBSNLBharat Sanchar Nigam LimitedBTSBase transceiver stationBWABroadband wireless accessC-ISPCommunity-based Internet service providersCDMACode Division Multiple AccessCIRCCommunity Information Resource CentreCMTSLCellular Mobile Telephone Service LicenseCNCommunity networkCPRCommon-pool resourcesCWIRPCommunity Wireless Infrastructure Research ProjectdBmDecibels relative to one milliwattDEFDigital Empowerment FoundationDFSDynamic frequency selectionDoTDepartment of TelecommunicationsDSLDigital subscriber lineDTHDirect to homeE-commerceElectronic commerceECEuropean CommissionEGoMEmpowered Group of MinistersEFPEffective radiated powerEUEuropean UnionEV-DVEvolution-Data and VoiceFBGFinancial bank guaranteeFCCFederal Communications Commission8 Community Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India

FMFrequency modulationFMCFixed-mobile convergenceGbpsGigabits per secondGHzGigahertzGSMGlobal System for Mobile CommunicationHSDPAHigh-speed Downlink Packet AccessHSUPAHigh-speed Uplink Packet AccessIABInternet Architecture BoardIAENGInternational Association of EngineersICTInformation and communications technologyIEEEInstitute of Electrical & Electronics EngineersIETFInternet Engineering Task ForceIGFInternet Governance ForumIITIndian Institute of TechnologyINRIndian rupeesIPInternet ProtocolISMIndustrial, scientific, and medicalISOCInternet SocietyISPInternet service providerITUInternational Telecommunication UnionKbpsKilobit per secondKm2Square kilometerKYCKnow your customerL&RLicensing and RegulationLANLocal area networkLMSCLast-mile satellite connectivityLoILetter of intentLRKLittle Rann of KutchMANMetropolitan area networkMEIRPMaximum Effective Isotropic Radiated PowerMHzMegahertzMIITMinistry of Industry and Information TechnologyMIMOMultiple input, multiple outputCommunity Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India 9

MLVMedium-large villagesmWMegawattNCBCNational Commission for Backward ClassesNFAPNational Frequency Allocation PlanNGONongovernmental organisationNICNational Informatics CentreNTIANational Telecommunications and Information AdministrationNTGNew Technology GroupNTPNational Telecom PolicyNYUNew York UniversityOFDMAOrthogonal frequency-division multiple accessOTPOne-time passwordPBGPerformance bank guaranteePoPPoint of presenceRFRadio frequencyRFCRequest for commentsRISPRural Internet service providerRLANRadio local area networkSDRSoftware-defined radioSMSShort Message ServiceSVBSmall villages and belowSACFAStanding Advisory Committee on Radio Frequency AllocationTest-BedSpectrum Sharing Innovation Test-BedTPCTransmit power controlTRAITelecom Regulatory Authority of IndiaTSPTelecommunications service providerTTCTibetan Technology CentreTVWSTV white spaceUASLUnified Access Service LicenseUHFUltra high frequencyUMTSUniversal Mobile Telecommunications SystemUNUnited NationsU-NIIUnlicensed National Information InfrastructureUSFUniversal service fund10 Community Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India

USOFUniversal Service Obligation FundUWBUltra-wide bandVLVVery large villageVOINVillages of India NetworkVoIPVoice over Internet ProtocolW2E2Wireless Women for Entrepreneurship & EmpowermentW3CWorld Wide Web ConsortiumW4CWireless for CommunitiesWASWireless Access SystemW-CDMAWideband Code Division Multiple AccessWCNWireless community networksWi-FiWireless FidelityWiMAXWorldwide Interoperability for Microwave AccessWLANWireless local area networkWLLWireless in local loopWMNTWireless mesh networking technologyWPCWireless Planning and Coordination WingWRCWorld Radiocommunication ConferenceCommunity Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India 11

EXECUTIVE SUMMARYThe emergence of a global “information society” is driven by the continuing developmentof converging telecommunications, multimedia broadcasting, and information technologieslinked together by the Internet. The flow of information facilitated by the Internetstrengthens democratic processes, stimulates economic growth, and allows for crossfertilisation of knowledge exchange and creativity in a way never seen before. However, noteveryone is able to benefit from this revolution yet, and many remain excluded mainly as aresult of limited coverage of affordable broadband access and services. Efforts to address thissituation at a small-scale at a local level often face a number of challenges in obtaining thenecessary permits and resources – in particular for licenses and access to backhaul capacity,masts, and radio spectrum.This document describes India-based Digital Empowerment Foundation’s (DEF) Wirelessfor Communities (W4C) network project strategy for improving the availability of affordablebroadband as a case study in understanding the legal and regulatory challenges of spectrumallocation and management, licensing regulation, and bandwidth issues in India. Thefirst section of this document maps out the common elements of these challenges amongcommunity network providers, while the next section addresses the policy, legal, licensing,regulation, and bandwidth issues in India. This document investigates the efficacy ofcreating wireless community networks (WCNs), rural Internet service providers (RISPs),or community-based Internet service providers (C-ISPs), and explores policies that couldhelp in creating widespread information infrastructure for the country to better connect thesubcontinent.The final section includes a number of recommendations for policy-makers, regulatorybodies, legislators, and related stakeholders. National recommendations include suggestionsto minimise regulatory hurdles for small/rural Internet service providers (ISPs) andcommunity networks in India, and exempt such networks from certain fees and taxes, inorder to promote last mile connectivity, especially by making sufficient spectrum affordablyavailable for use by rural and remote communities. The recommendations to regionaland international organisations focus on creating a more enabling policy and regulatoryenvironment for community networks more generally, applicable to any national context,specifically by:12 Community Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India

1. Creating and implementing minimal and proportionate regulation that is technologyneutral;2. Ensuring spectrum is available for community networks to help close digital divides,expand Internet access, develop remote and rural regions, and promote the digitaleconomy;3. Promoting, disseminating, and supporting the adoption of the community networkmodel through their existing communications channels; and4. Implementing/expanding universal service funds so that community networks candraw from them in order to build infrastructure, develop networks, and maintainand scale operations.The author,Ritu Srivastava, has over 10 years of professional experience in InformationCommunication and Technology (ICT) development, managing programmesand projects. Her current area of interest, activities and research is in ICT at thegrassroots level, Internet security, women empowerment, environmental issues, etc.Community Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India 13

INTRODUCTIONAccess to connectivity is now well recognized as an enabler of socio-economic development,and can help address many of the barriers that presently exist for marginalized membersof society. However the 2016 International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) State ofBroadband report points out that there are still about 3.5 billion people out of 7 billionpeople who are still not connected to the Internet1. This means that it took about 25 yearsto connect half of the world. To help ensure it does not take another 25 years to get theother half online, Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF)2 of India has been working tosupport unconnected communities obtain access to the Internet. Barriers to connectivityexist around the world, but these barriers can be eliminated through community-drivensolutions and partnerships, maintains the director of DEF, Osama Manzar, who notes:“Most of the 3.5 billion people who are unconnected are socially underserved andeconomically impoverished. Innovative last mile connectivity as the means of providing basicinfrastructure would make the world better and [more] equal.”Empowering individuals who are living in remote areas is only possible if Internetconnectivity is not only available but also affordable enough to allow access to the widerange of information available on the Internet, from market prices, weather information,new opportunities, and new skill sets, to discovering dances, food recipes or how-to videos.Internet content covering the various economic, social, educational, and cultural aspects ofhuman life, which is a democratic mechanism in and of itself, is growing every day, yet manycommunities are denied the current opportunities that the Internet provides due to nonavailability of the Internet or limited access.Working over the last 15 years, DEF has established one of the largest groups of communitywireless Internet connectivity networks in India. By providing digital literacy skillsthrough training programmes, it has enabled connectivity in regions where traditionaland mainstream Internet service providers (ISPs) either do not wish to expand, or simplydo not consider as relevant markets. DEF has also pioneered the process of training localcommunity members (many of whom have not completed a formal education), to maintaincommunity infrastructure3.Wireless community networks, also called community-based Internet service providers(C-ISPs)4 are networks whose infrastructure is built, managed, operated, and administered1. Available at: http://broadbandcommission. org/Documents/reports/bb-annualreport2016.pdf.2. For more information, see: Additional information is also available at: ies%20%281%29.pdf.3. For more information, see: barefoot-network-engineers.4. “Community networks, which can be broadly defined as telecommunications infrastructure deployed14 Community Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India

by a community-driven organisation or by a community itself by pooling their existingresources and working with partners to start-up and scale their activities. These networksprovide affordable access to the Internet, while also strengthening the local economy(Center for Neighborhood Technology, 2006). There are now hundreds of communitynetworks around the world spread across diverse countries, located in underserved andgeographically challenging areas5. Among them, more than 100 community networks haveadopted a bottom-up approach instead of adopting the classic, telecom operator-driven,top-down approach. Some of these networks are located in Latin America(Argentina,Brazil, Mexico), Sub-Saharan Africa (South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Congo), Asia-Pacific(India, Nepal, Pakistan, Indonesia, Australia, Afghanistan), the United States, Canada, andEurope (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Greece, Sweden, Croatia). Even though manycommunity networks share common characteristics, each may use a different technology,or work under different governance or regulatory models within different socio-economicand cultural conditions. Even the management and governance structure of each of thecommunity networks have been found to be different and diverse.DEF’s Wireless for Communities (W4C) programme6 aims to provide affordable, ubiquitous,and democratically controlled Internet access in rural regions of India. Nevertheless, theprogram has faced – and in some cases, still faces – regulatory, policy, licensing, and legalchallenges which hamper the process of establishing wireless networks in rural parts of thecountry.This document uses DEF’s Wireless for Communities programme as a means to understandthe regulatory, policy, spectrum, and legal challenges in India and how they affect Indiancommunity networks. The document identifies the common elements of policy, legal, andregulatory challenges among community networks that may challenge operations in othercountries around the world, and presents recommendations that aim to inform national,regional, and international policy and regulatory frameworks. This document is part of aseries of policy briefing papers, a collaborative effort between DEF & ISOC that addresstechnological, content, sustainability, and organisational challenges, among others, whichrequire further discussion in relevant national, regional and global policy fora.and operated by citizens to meet their own communication needs, have been part of the foundationsof Internet infrastructure since [its] early days. In recent years, the community networks movement hasgrown consistently, leading more and more voices to point to them as a solution for connecting thenext billion, due to [the] increasing evidence of the role they do, and can, play.” Quoted on page 6 of theMay 2017 Internet Society report, “Supporting the creation and scalability of affordable access solutions:Understanding community networks in Africa,” available at: s/CommunityNetworkingAfrica report May2017 1.pdf.5. For extensive catalogues and lists of community networks, see: and t 0.pdf.6. For more information, see: Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India 15

RESEARCH OBJECTIVEThe primary objective of this document is to describe the legal issues surrounding spectrumallocation and management, licensing regulation, and bandwidth issues in India as theyrelate to community networks. The report outlines the technological and infrastructuralchallenges from a policy perspective in India, and identifies some of the common issues thatmay be faced by other community networks across the world. Finally, it also provides policyrecommendations and suggestions to assist in deploying community networks in India.MethodologyThe research for this report draws on academic literature, and government and regulatorydocuments to analyze existing policies and programs. Two mapping methodologieswere adopted, one that examined existing policies and the other that examined relevantstakeholders. Aside from the DEF networks, the community networking professionals incountries other than India also interviewed included:NameCommunity network affiliationCountryMahabir PunNepal Wireless Networking ProjectNepalJosephine MilizaTunapandaNetKenyaCarlos Rey-MorenoZenzeleni NetworksSouth AfricaAnya OrlovaAmazon Digital Radio Network usingHigh FrequencyBrazilLeandro NavarroGulfi.netSpain16 Community Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India

SECTION I: DEFINITION OF COMMUNITYNETWORKThe architecture of community networks (CNs) is usually based on wireless technologiesdesigned to support their users’ online interactions, including messaging or sharing data, andto bring Internet-related services to locations where ISPs do not offer Internet access. Variousdefinitions of CNs exist, ranging from academic and technical definitions to governmentand regulatory definitions. For instance, Baig, Roca, Freitag, and Navarro (2015) definecommunity networks as “crowdsourced networks” that are structured to be free, open, andneutral, built by community members and managed as a common resource. Elkin-Koren(2006) defined CNs as distributed architectures in which users implement a physicallydecentralised network through the decentralisation of hardware. The European Commission(EC) uses the phrase “community broadband model” and defines it as “a private initiative bythe local residents of the community using a so called bottom-up approach.”7Overall, it can be said that CNs are an alternative and complementary approach to thetraditional commercial model wherein Internet connectivity is not sold to end-users –instead, users effectively club together to establish connectivity between themselves, andthen may use their collective bargaining power to purchase capacity to the rest of theInternet. Networks that are built this way are still just as much a part of the Internet, butpresent various “exceptional” features, in particular low cost and transparency. They areusually operated on a cost-recovery basis and provide public documentation on all technicaland non-technical aspects. They are often based on collective digital participation - ascrowdsourced networks, they may be structured to be open, free, and neutral,8 relyingon the active participation of local communities in the design, development, deployment,and management of the shared infrastructure as a common resource. Usually owned bythe community and governed according to democratic principles, in terms of institutionalmodels, community networks may be operationalised wholly or partly through localstakeholders and individuals, local non-governmental organisations (NGOs), private sectorentities, and/or public administrative or governmental bodies.CNs often rely on wireless mesh networking (WMN) technology9 comprised of nodes andWi-Fi access points that relay data, and route other nodes’ traffic. The structure of these mesh7. The idea of a decentralized network was key in creating the Internet: a network of networks without anycentral node would have been more resilient to possible attacks. Yet, the Internet then evolved in a differentway, as today it is infamously clear that it mainly relies on a few operators and on large nodes. For moreinformation, see: Pp. 20-21 of Elkin-Koren, N. (2006).8. For a comprehensive history of community networks, see: ry v1.1.pdf.9. For an overview of wired and wireless networking technologies, see: Settles, C. (2017). “Fiber & wireless:Stronger together for community broadband.” Community Broadband Snapshot Report. Available at: snapshot-01-17.pdf.Community Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India 17

networks permits the connection of numerous nodes which interlink members and connectthem to the rest of the Internet. Data travels from one connected node to another in order toreach a node that is connected to the Internet, also known a “gateway node.” In this way, thecommunity network connects the community, and also allows them to access the Internetfor their specific purposes relevant to their local interests and needs.10In India, community networks are not specifically defined – the concept is still relativelyunknown and, as a result, it is not in common parlance or in government ICT policy orregulation. The ‘Consultation Paper on the Proliferation of Broadband through PublicWi-Fi Networks’ by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in November2016 identified them as “public Wi-Fi networks.” The ‘Consultation Paper’ assigns abroader meaning and is not limited to the Wi-Fi hotspot created and/or licensed bytelecommunications service providers (TSPs)/ISPs in public places (TRAI, 2016). The papergenerally indicates that a commercial model is envisaged in which small entrepreneurs andeven smaller private entities would sell Wi-Fi network services for public use.Given the aim of this report and the importance of community networks in India andaround the world, the paper highlights the challenges DEF’s CN deployments have faced.To address these, recommendations to remove barriers for community networks in Indiahave been identified which could benefit communities and empower people throughout thesubcontinent. It is also hoped that these recommendations will be of value to people outsidethe country who are interested in developing and deploying their own networks to connectthe unconnected around the world.11Community Network Models in IndiaCompared to the level of need, there are relatively few examples of initiatives workingto support or deploy wireless networks which focus specifically on communities that areexcluded from access as a result of income levels, size, geography or discrimination. DEF12,AirJaldi13, and Gram Marg14 are among the few community networks operating in India,providing basic Internet connectivity and enabling access to information for people who areliving in the most rural and remote regions of India and to those unable to afford traditionalInternet services provided by the established telecom providers.10. For more extensive information, read Wireless Networking in the Developing World. It is a free e-book aboutdesigning, implementing, and maintaining low-cost wireless networks. Available at: For an extensive list of policy recommendations for connecting and enabling the next billion(s), see: ?q filedepot download/3416/549.12. DEF is also involved in an initiative called Barefoot College, which trains middle-aged women from ruralvillages worldwide to become solar engineers. In partnership with local and national organisations, the BarefootCollege team establishes relationships with village elders, who help identify trainees and implement communitysupport. For more information, see: https://www.barefootcollege.org13. See: https://airjaldi.com14. See: http://grammarg.in18 Community Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India

AirJaldi began as a social nonprofit enterprise in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, providingaffordable wireless broadband connectivity in the most remote rural areas of India. Twoengineers from Israel, Yahel Ben-David and Michael Ginguld, who had frequently visitedDharamshala wished to contribute to the development of Tibetan refugees by providingInternet connectivity to the Tibetan refugee community and help to connect them with localsupport institutions. There was no other connectivity infrastructure available at the time sothey founded AirJaldi to provide affordable Internet access in cooperation with the TibetanTechnology Centre (TTC) in Dharamshala. Gradually, AirJaldi became a brand name, andlended its name to a newly established company called Rural Broadband Pvt. Ltd. Operatingas a social enterprise on a commercial basis, AirJaldi is a national ISP (Class A) whichpresently owns and runs ten networks in six Indian states with a total of about 60,000 users15.There are more than 2,000 computers connected to the mesh network, of which roughly500 have Internet access, while others connect via Wi-Fi hotspots, and the remainder areconnected locally to an intranet.Mumbai-based Gram Marg is in pilot/test phase. It was created by the Rural BroadbandProject of the Department of Electrical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology(IIT) in Bombay in 2012 to test a commercial franchise model for rural connectivity usingTV white space (TVWS)16 to provide backhaul connectivity for Wi-Fi hotspots and kiosks.Currently there is no formal regulatory framework for the use of TWVS in India, howeverthe Department of Telecom (DoT) of the Government of India granted an experimentallicense to IIT Bombay in 2015 to conduct tests using the TVWS bands in 13 villages inMaharashtra.Along with the DEF project, these two alternative models also face various levels of policyand regulatory challenges, from spectrum management and regulation, spectrum availability,licensing processes, regulation of ISPs, and compliance-level issues that hamper the growthof Wi-Fi services or community networks in India, as outlined further below.15. See: Gram Marg takes advantage of underutilised UHF TV band spectrum (called white space) to provide thebackhaul for rural broadband access using LTE-A. For more information on TV white space, see: Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India 19

20 Community Networks: Regulatory issues and gaps – Experiences from India

Section II: DEF Wireless forCommunity (W4C) network projectW4C is a non-profit initiative of DEF supported by Internet Society (ISOC) and variousother partners over the years. Launched in 2010, W4C’s goal is to connect rural and remotelocations of India where mainstream ISPs are unwilling to provide Internet connectivity(usually because their operations would not be commercially viable). W4C uses line-of-sightand low-cost Wi-Fi equipment based on the 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) and 5.8 GHz unlicensedspectrum bands to create community-owned and community-operated wireless networksin rural and remote locations of India. The project strives to provide affordable, robust,ubiquitous, and user-centric Internet access in order to enable local development, reducepoverty, and encourage civic participation. Aside from improving access to informationin rural and remote parts of the country this also requires addressing the lack of content,products, and services originating from rural areas, which inhibits their economicdevelopment. Even in areas with infrastructure, people often lack the skills to use the Internetto its full potential. The lack of content in local languages as well as inadequate informationand communications technology (ICT) training are also reasons for lower adoption inrural areas as compared to urban areas. In summary, the W4C programme has four maincomponents:1. Train the trainers in wireless network technology and transform them intobarefoot wireless engineers (BWE) to link rural populations to the Internet;2. Deploy wireless connectivity across rural communities, especially in clusters;3. Create an open forum to discuss best practices and lessons learned, and to educateon issues from both a technical and policy perspective; and4. Advocate for social enterprises and NGOs to be rural Internet service providers,especially by opening new channels to decision-makers, regulators, governmentofficials, the private sector, civil society, and the technical community.Most of the W4C networks are located in tribal and underserved areas where people havenot used a computer or smartphone before, and where communities are unaware of how theInternet can be a part of their lives and help to fulfill their needs. Similarly, the community isunaware of the legal and regulatory frameworks involved in setting up the network.For example, Baran is a unique district in Rajasthan where time appears to stand still.Spread across a 7,000 square kilometer (km2) area, Baran has just 82 km2 that is designatedas urban. Out of the population of 1 millio

W2E2 Wireless Women for Entrepreneurship & Empowerment W3C World Wide Web Consortium W4C Wireless for Communities WAS Wireless Access System W-CDMA Wideband Code Division Multiple Access WCN Wireless community networks Wi-Fi Wireless Fidelity WiMAX Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access WLAN Wireless local area network WLL Wireless in .

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