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Alston

A plan to stop governments from shutting down the Internet

Liquid Telecom’s Andrew Alston and Ben Roberts, along with Fiona Asonga of TESPOK, have submitted a policy proposal[1] to AfriNIC on how to deal with governments shutting down the Internet. AfriNIC – the African Network Information Centre – is responsible for the distribution and management of the IP address space (IPv4 and IPv6) and Autonomous System Numbers in Africa and the Indian Ocean region. The submission states that over the past few years, “more and more” governments have shut down “free and open access to the Internet in order to push political and other agendas”.

“These shutdowns have been shown to cause economic damage and hurt the citizens of the affected countries,” states the proposal.

The solution

The proposed solution is that if a government orders the blocking of access to the general Internet, or attempts to restrict access to the Internet by a segment of the population, AfriNIC will not allocate resources to the government of the country. “For a period of 12 months following the end of the shutdown, AfriNIC will allocate no resources to the government of the country. This also applies to all government-owned entities and entities that have direct provable relationships with said government.”

“In the event of a transfer policy existing, AfriNIC shall not assist or participate in any transfers to any of the entities above. All sub-allocations of space within said country involving the referred to entities shall equally cease for a period of 12 months.” The proposal further states that if a government performs three or more shutdowns in a period of 10 years, “all resources to the aforementioned entities shall be revoked and no allocations to said entities shall occur for a period of 5 years”.

“We feel that the time has come for action to be taken, rather than just bland statements that have shown to have little or no effect,” states the proposal.

Plan of action

Alston told MyBroadband that submitting policy proposals to AfriNIC is open to anyone, after which they will be tabled for discussion. “When the policy was authored, we knew that it wasn’t perfect and it would require some debate and discussion,” said Alston. He said they will now gather feedback – some of which states that the current version is too broad – and release a new draft for further discussion.

“It’s an iterative process and hopefully it leads to consensus to get the policy passed by the community.” “We may also look at adding an exception for academia for those countries where academia is directly state-controlled.” In terms of the effect on countries which are denied resources by AfriNIC, Alston said no one really knows exactly what will happen until the measure is implemented.

“Unless a government requires more space in the 12 months following a shutdown, it probably won’t affect them terribly much,” he said. “However, after the third shutdown, their resources would be revoked.” “They would have to either go and source addresses elsewhere – they would turn to the secondary markets or get allocations from an ISP willing to give them the space – or they would effectively find themselves cut off the Internet.”

“If they did manage to get resources elsewhere, they would have to renumber their networks.

Anyone who has ever renumbered a large network will know this is far from simple to accomplish.”

Now read: Google to launch Hire[2]

References

  1. ^ policy proposal (www.afrinic.net)
  2. ^ Google to launch Hire (mybroadband.co.za)

Dumfries businesses lose out over lack of superfast broadband

More than twelve million pounds is being invested by Dumfries and Galloway Council to speed up the roll-out of superfast broadband. The authority hopes that 100% of all homes and businesses will be connected by 2021. But a business, just ten minutes outside of Dumfries, has spoken out about losing customers due to a lack of internet access.

The Mabie House Hotel is unable to take bookings online because the internet connection isn’t fast enough. The hotel’s manager has criticised the council for not moving quick enough when it comes to providing superfast broadband. People nowadays like to book online there and then they don’t want to sort of go on the website and then have to phone up. We’ve got to do this and we’ve got to do that…they just want to book there and then so it sort of becomes oh we’ll not go there because I’m too busy.”

– Phillipa Proudlock, Manageress, Mabie House Hotel

The owners of Mabie House Hotel can’t get any wifi on site so they set up their broadband hub further down the road with a neighbour. But if the wifi goes down for any reason, they have to wait for that neighbour to come home and reset it.

It means they sometimes go for hours without any internet. At first it wasn’t really an issue because broadband wasn’t a big thing back then.”

We lose on business contracts, basically because we have no broadband wifi so when they come back to the hotel they can’t do their emails they can’t do their work. It’s really quite embarrassing.”

– Phillipa Proudlock, Manageress, Mabie House Hotel

Nationally the average download speed is 23.4 megabits per second. The average broadband speed in the Scottish Borders is just 14.7 megabits per second. Cumbria is above the average at 26.1 megabits per second. The speed is even better in Dumfries and Galloway where it’s 27.3 megabits per second. However, that speed can only be accessed at three quarters of homes and business.

I think in a rural economy our businesses need to be able to compete. You can’t compete without the infrastructure of broadband. You can’t sell the fabulous products we’ve got unless you can reach the customers in their homes and across Europe and the world.

– Gavin Stevenson, Chief Executive, Dumfries and Galloway Council

Bad broadband akin to taking a pen from a child

Despite its proximity to Waterford City, CountryStyle Foods in Kilmacow has to contend with very slow broadband speeds. That’s the reality for the company’s managing director Rory Williams, who’s had an ongoing interest in the National Broadband Plan since early details were announced. At a thinktank on rural broadband in Kilkenny last Thursday, Mr Williams said the real tragedy of poor quality broadband is its impact on young people — and, potentially, the businesses of the future. Given its importance today, he likened not providing broadband to going into a school classroom and taking a pen from a child.

“None of us know where the next Google or Facebook or Glass Eye is coming from,” he said.

Mr Williams is a member of the Kilkenny Broadband Action Group (KBAG) set up to look at broadband.

“We sat down at a meeting and said let’s see what’s out there,” he says.

“What have people done?”

KBAG then visited sites in the UK where different solutions have been applied. The first visit was to Cumbria where a ‘top down’ approach was being implemented. It was an insight into the various difficulties they faced, including trying physical terrain, and even historic problems

Mr Williams also spoke about Rakala in Finland — a rural area which relies on tourism. They were increasingly finding that young people weren’t visiting anymore.

“And so it became a community-led idea, and they reckoned if they could get fibre broadband it would bring more people into the area,” Mr Williams told the meeting.

“More people, more tourism, more spending.”

Another visit was to Lancashire, where a community-owned network, ‘B4RN’, was founded by volunteers.

“It turned out to be a fascinating rural community project where they considered a variety of options and then formed a co-op community,” says the CountryStyle managing director.

“It was a very powerful model, and it spread then. Because the next parish said ‘if they can do, we can do it’. It then became a social funding model, and the funds generated stay within the community.”

B4RN did have the benefit of an existing coterie of people, and some other advantages, but Mr Williams said the model had worked very well for the community there.

“It allows them to be co-owners of the internet, not consumers,” he said.