In the COVID-19 era, community networks are increasingly important in meeting the rising demand for affordable connectivity.
In Kenya, where community networks are growing in size and number, there was a positive regulatory change in 2021 with the introduction of the Community Networks Service Provider (CNSP) license in the Communications Authority Unified Licensing Framework.
In 2022, the Authority published the draft new universal service fund strategic plan, principles and guidelines, and the operating manual for 2022–2026.
On Community Networks, the fund proposes:
Page 50 (ANNEX: 1 Key Result Areas, Strategic Objectives, Key Performance Indicators, Baselines and Targets) ICT Infrastructure and Services rolled out in telecommunications infrastructure voice and connectivity services, Broadcasting, and Postal services in unserved and underserved communities.
- Key result area 1 – Telecommunications (Voice and Data), strategic objective 1.5, which is to facilitate the establishment of a 100-community Network in the unserved and the underserved communities
- Key result area 5 – Infrastructure and Services – e-Inclusivity, strategic objective 5.1, which proposes the enhancement of access to services including Voice and Data among the persons with disabilities, women, and other vulnerable groups in unserved and underserved communities
This is a commendable move as it will support the provision of broadband connectivity to citizens, especially vulnerable groups in unserved and underserved communities.
Funding of infrastructure projects could be made available through a public call, open to holders of a CNSP license. The funds could be used to support infrastructure projects providing broadband connectivity to citizens by deploying new infrastructure in places where there was none or by extending and upgrading the existing infrastructure in areas where a Community Network was already operating.
The funds can be used to purchase equipment, pay for installation, and cover operational costs.
This is a series of blogs on the work KICTANet has been doing around Community Networks.
Josephine Miliza is the Africa Community Networks Policy Coordinator.