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As part of the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), my colleague Ritu Srivastava and I I participated in an interactive session on Broadband for All organised at the RightsCon conference in Manila, Philippines. This session explored how broadband services and access can be utilized by all populations across the world. We offered an approach from our experience in providing internet access through a program called Wireless for Communities.

Broadband Access for All

The discussion was mainly aimed at access. In countries like India, service is often inaccessible, access unavailable or unaffordable, along with many other challenges. Regulation is not transparent and significant disparities exist between those who can access and those who cannot. On the technical side, there are many solutions available but the biggest stumbling block is the regulatory regime and outdated regulations. Governments are open to new technology in this regard, as the fact that the Government of India is raising $20 million for 3G spectrum evidences.

Free WiFi projects being implemented across the world were mentioned in the debate. In New York City (USA) wireless communications and infrastructure is built by the community, which operates it, manages it, and solve problems and challenges. This is crucial for a democratic society to function freely.

Shahid Ahmed is is Deputy Director at the Digital Empowerment Foundation and an active member of several wireless industry groups.