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Global Access to the Internet for All (GAIA) RG (Proposed)

Chairs: Arjuna Sathiaseelan (University of Cambridge) and Warren Kumari (Google)

The Internet Society’s recent global Internet survey reveals that the Internet should be considered as a basic human birth right like clean water, public roads, work/school etc., because of its societal benefits. However, in the reality of today’s Internet, the vision of global access to the Internet faces the challenge of a growing digital divide, i.e., a growing disparity between those with sufficient access to the Internet and those who cannot afford access to the essential services provided by the Internet.

Access problems often result from sparsely spread populations living in physically remote locations, since it is simply not cost effective for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to install the required infrastructure for broadband Internet access to these areas. In addition to the physical limitations of terrestrial infrastructures (mainly due to distance) to provide last mile access, remote communities also incur higher costs for connection between the exchange and backbone network when using wired technologies. A large exchange may accommodate many users and allow for competition between service operators; in contrast, a rural/remote broadband often does not offer economies of scale, raising the costs per user. Thus, although service requirements for customers in rural/remote areas and cities are identical, the delivery mechanism needs to be different.

Addressing digital exclusion due to socio-economic barriers is also extremely important. The United Nations revealed the global disparity in fixed broadband access, showing that access to fixed broadband mainly in less-developed countries costs almost 40 times their national average income. This problem is even encountered in developed countries, where many individuals find themselves unable to pass a necessary credit check or live in circumstances that are too unstable to commit to lengthy broadband contracts.

There are both policy and research challenges to the realisation of a future Internet capability that will offer appropriate access to all parts of society. There can be no single uniform solution that embraces all types of user and all locations.

The Global Access to the Internet for All (GAIA) is an IRTF initiative that aims

(1) to create maximum visibility and interest among the community on the challenges in enabling global Internet access;

(2) to create a shared vision among researchers, corporations, non governmental and governmental organisations on the challenges;

(3) to articulate and foster collaboration among them to address the diverse Internet access and architectural challenges;

(4) to document and share deployment experiences and research results to the wider community through scholarly publications, white papers, Informational and Experimental RFCs etc;

(5) to have a longer term vision on influencing standardisation efforts at the IETF that could potentially change the Internet landscape to be more inclusive.


The IRTF GAIA research group to be meeting will be held at the IETF 89 meeting in London on Thursday 6th March 3:00 pm- 6:00 pm at the London Hilton Metropole, Edgware Road (Hilton Meeting Rooms 1-4).


3:00-3:10 - ​Welcome, Chairs (Arjuna Sathiaseelan and Warren Kumari)

Session 1: Deployment Experiences

3:10-3:20 - ​IXP Deployment Experiences in Africa - Michuki Mwangi, ISOC

3:20-3:30 - Caching and the local content equation - Mike Blanche, Google

3:30-3:35 - Digital divide challenges: A perspective from the Commonwealth Countries - Dr. Martin Koyabe, Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation

3:35-3:40 - Enabling Affordability, Ensuring Development - Kojo Boakye, A4AI

3:40-3:50 - ​Internet Deployment Experiences from NSRC - Steve Huter & Hervey Allen, NSRC

3:50-4:00 - ​Understanding broadband performance - A Network Operator's Perspective - Dr. Achilles Petras, BT

4:00-4:15 - Q & A

Session 2: Architectures

4:15-4:25 - ​TAQ: Enhancing Fairness and Performance Predictability in Small Packet Regimes, Prof. Jay Chen, New York University

4:25-4:35 - Less-than-Best-Effort Service for Community Wireless Networks: Challenges at Three Layers - Prof Michael Welzl, University of Oslo

4:35-4:45 - ​From an always-on Internet to one that is almost surely off - Dr. Dirk Trossen, InterDigital?

4:45-4:55 - Q & A

Session 3: Research Project Experiences

4:55-5:05 Internet Access Requirements: a view from the IU-­‐ATC project - Prof Saleem Bhatti, University of St. Andrews

5:05-5:15 - Liberouter - Towards Do-It-Yourself Networking - Prof Joerg Ott, Aalto University

5:15-5:25 - ​Virtual Public Networks - Prof Panagiotis Papadimitriou, University of Hannover

5:25-5:30 -​ and Community Wireless Networks, Aaron Kaplan, Funkfeuer

5:30- 5:40 - Q & A

5:40-6:00 - Discussion of proposed charter and future plans

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