- Dr. Ravina Aggarwal, Program Officer for Media Rights and Access, Ford Foundation
- Dr. Mahesh Uppal, Director, Com First (India)
- Rajan Mathews, Director General, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI)
- Dr. Rajat Kathuria, Director & Chief Executive, Indian Council for Research, International Economic Relations (ICRIER)
- Ashish Sanyal, Former Sr. Director, DeitY, Govt of India; Independent e-Gov. and ICT4D Consultant
- Deepak Maheshwari, Head, Government Affairs, Symantec
Community Network Stakeholders
- Michael Ginguld, CEO, AirJaldi Research and Innovation
- Vibhas Sharma, Founding Director and CEO, Aura Ventures Pvt. Ltd
- Nagarajan M, District Development Officer, District Panchayat, Sabarkantha, Gujarat
- Shahid Ahmad, Project Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation
Moderator : Rajnesh Singh, Regional Bureau Director for Asia-Pacific, ISOC
The Summit focused on economical and rightful access to communication infrastructure to ensure social inclusion of marginalized communities and women
The Summit began with a reading of recommendation points from the 3rd Wireless for Communities Summit in 2013. Following these, the moderator Mr. Rajnesh Singh urged all speakers to start the discussion with these points in mind and engage in a thoughtful dialogue leading to useful outcomes. All participants expressed their views one by one followed by conversations on specific issues and challenges.
Following are the main recommendation points formed out of the round-table discussion during the 4th Wireless for Communities Summit.
To address licensing and bandwidth issues
- Introduction of a rural ISP License would eliminate the dependence of smaller ISPs on bigger players, help rural ISPs operate at lower bandwidth costs and provide broadband connectivity to rural areas. The compliance issues can be take care of by Class-A ISPs. Rural ISPs should be legalized.
To address infrastructure issues
- Sharing of physical infrastructure would be helpful to achieve last mile connectivity.
- New technologies like Long-Term Evolution (LTE) should be explored to provide last mile connectivity. Additional technologies should be used for more efficient utilization of bandwidth.
- The cost of infrastructure like bandwidth, smartphones and data recharges should be reduced to improve Internet penetration in villages.
To address legal issues
- SACFA Clearance requirements should be completely removed or at least policy changes are recommended to allow for towers of height higher than 5 m in densely vegetated areas. Complete refurbishment of Unlicensed Spectrum policy is required to take care of infrastructure issues.
- The spectrum allocation methodology of auctioning is unavoidable to maintain transparency. Hence the design of auctioning should be improved by adding more onerous and policy-driven objectives to it to reduce the price for ISPs and speed up the roll-down towards customers in rural areas.
To address financial issues
- Rural Cable TV Operators should be supported and enabled to provide connectivity in rural areas owing to their good customer base and also availability of cable-ISP license.
- Subsidy models should be created by the private sector to run rural Internet networks and the Universal Service Obligation Fund USO Fund should be used to incentivize ISPs whenever there is a funding gap especially in non-viable areas.
- Investment for network infrastructure can be done by District Panchayats or self-help groups or via network funding like BRGF, State Govt. grants etc. per village. The network itself can be run by any appointed organization on a revenue-sharing basis.
- Microfinance lenders can provide cheaper credit to VLEs and allow them to get access to capital.