Solutions for Internet Access in Isolated Regions

Internet indígena. Foto: Rhizomatica

Native communities have depended on their economic capacity to solve their communication services. Historically, there is a global attention deficit in this regard, for example, according to World Bank data, indigenous peoples “have less than half the access to cellular telephony than non-indigenous peoples,” and “between four and six times less internet access than non-indigenous people.” As the pandemic crisis worsens, if large companies decide to stop providing services, that they find not profitable enough, to low-income communities, it will be almost impossible for many people to be able to keep in touch by telephone or internet.

The lack of communication in this crisis would be catastrophic and create even greater isolation, when networks intrinsically depend on each other for survival. Before this crisis, some indigenous communities had already developed processes for obtaining internet and telephone systems independent of large providers. Using that experience, we would like to offer some alternatives to try to help create emerging solutions for isolated communities. 

Remote indigenous communities who live in the Oaxaca mountains in Mexico have managed to establish community telephone and internet systems with international support. Similarly, in the Ecuadorian Amazon there are several educational projects with international support, which have managed to establish their own satellite communication systems.

In the United States and Canada, a webinar was recently held among people from Native communities to discuss how to strengthen or create internet networks that provide services to indigenous communities that are being cut off due to lack of economic resources, to be able to cover phone and internet costs. This webinar was organized by Internet Society, a nonprofit that works to democratize and spread the free use of internet as a medium that belongs to all of us.

We are also sharing a router installation manual prepared by AlterMundi, for the creation of community internet networks. AlterMundi is an international community that promotes free networks software with the goal of promoting the Right to Communication.