This is response to one of the readers who has very kindly consented to write about it. Building and owning community networks is a fascinating idea but the major reason why they work or fail is the participation of the people around in the project.
There have been some attempts in the past (this post beautifully highlights what has been covered in India) However, practical suggestions apart, barring a mention in the media for the same, I have no clue about their present status.
One of the biggest obstacle in community funding is the funds. It’s impossible to get people excited about a shiny new broadband because of huge capital expenditure. One easy way out of this mess is to involve the Government to invest after negotiating long term rates with suppliers. This would make it easier and technically, BSNL and MTNL are public owned entities in their own right. It is a separate matter that their decision making is isolated from what is required to what is actually provided.
Hence, I don’t remain convinced about the community networks. There are ownership issues; we know in Indian model of “board membership” means a permanent way to swindle funds. Indians unfortunately, have lost touch with community participation and has remained in the hands of few well meaning NGO’s; some of them might get a mention in main stream media but no one talks about their failures.
However, running an Internet cafe on community lines is different from owning the actual line. Barring a nominal amount of capital expenditure (one needs funds for everything!), there is no other way any such model could sustain itself.