[bestbits] Call for comment - Connectivity Investment & Human Rights Principles

Amelia Andersdotter amelia at andersdotter.cc
Fri Sep 16 18:28:17 EDT 2016

Dear Nick,
Dear all,

I hope that sharing (my) experiences of network development in the east
of the EU in the 1990s is helpful, because the countries there at the
time were in a not-great position economically but their people should
be given credit for finding a way, still, to enable connectivity for

In the 1990s there was quite intense roll-out of internet infrastructure
in several Eastern European Union memberstates. It was not dependent on
foreign direct investment, because the economies were quite chaotic at
that time. They also had no particular functioning regulatory
authorities and in general lacked legislation. The networks constructed
were small, vertically integrated ISPs that covered a few blocks and
interconnected with each other.

I recall someone telling me that the a major international charity
focused on Eastern Europe at the time provided connectivity between
cities through satellite. This has since been replaced by a proper backbone.

There isn't so much information about this around - some professionals
who remember The Good Old Days are around, even in international
institutions. Also the regulatory authority, ANCOM, of Romania I know
has a relatively good idea. Those countries were also in a peculiar
situation: they had a lot of people who were good with mathematics,
normally, and many of those then became self-taught UNIX administrators.
I'm not sure how they got the raw materials for the infrastructure or
where the cables were from, but the networks are still pretty awesome
over there (even if they've been maintained and upgraded since).

In the country that I know most of, which is Romania, they've also had
economic success stories because of this. Locally owned larger
enterprises are often IT enterprises, and they have some companies
making derivative products as well (like IT security).

The markets there are always changing, of course, and it's a bit typical
that perhaps the best lesson that can be drawn is to have very little
(enforceable) regulation and over-sight. Also, they inherited the EU
regulatory framework afterwards, which aspires to uphold effective
competition. If I understand the situation of the regulatory authorities
well, it also depends on whether they were already present at the time
of the transition in the 1990s (and therefore burdened by
pre-transitional administrative culture) or mostly erected
post-transition (and so less burdened by pre-transitional culture).

Otherwise, the Swedish city council owner fiber rings have been quite
successful. It's more dependent on a regulatory framework and local
government making investments in local infrastructure. I've reflected
for a number of years if enabling local mobile network operators would
somehow be helpful to get better coverage in rural areas (it would
typically require interconnected obligations between networks, something
which we don't have or do in the EU).

best regards,


On 2016-09-16 12:26, Nick Ashton-Hart wrote:
> Dear Peter,
> This is timely and I have a related point to make.
> In Geneva in the trade community there is discussion on what the elements of a digital agenda could be. One of the highest-profile is: how can trade contribute to narrowing the digital divide, especially in LDCs. There are a number of ideas floating about - including looking at barriers to services and hardware essential to the objective - but nothing is settled.
> A number of missions have heard the message that connectivity with the ability to communicate freely is a key to being able to innovate locally. It is a good message of course, and for those of you who are dealing with the trade community, you may wish to reinforce points like this. I know that we all believe free expression should be supported on its merits, but for trade people it is helpful to have a commercial argument that they can also have to sell at home, especially in capitals where free expression online is not widely admired.
> Finally, any thoughts that you have on how trade policy can foster narrowing the digital divide would be very timely. I’m happy to socialise any that people can come up with.
> Regards, Nick
>> On 16 Sep 2016, at 12:19, Peter Micek <peter at accessnow.org> wrote:
>> Hello everyone,
>> Over the past year, you may have seen news regarding Global Connect <https://share.america.gov/globalconnect/>, a U.S. sponsored initiative that aims to bring 1.5 billion people online by 2020. In September of last year <http://bestbits.net/global-connect-initiative/>, a diverse group of civil society organizations published a letter in support of the initiative, and in April of this year <http://bestbits.net/finance-ministers-global-connect/>, a second letter was presented to Finance Ministers around the world to to urge increased access to rights-respecting ICTs and broadband connectivity.
>> The initiative is progressing and included a meeting that took place following the April letter between the U.S. Secretary of State and the President of the World Bank. Many Finance Ministers also participated in that event at the World Bank designed at financing Global Connect. However, despite the letters, the IEEE Report-out document that came out from the meeting, barely registered human rights, freedom of expression, and the right to privacy.
>> A few of us have started to work on a set of human rights-based principles to inform connectivity initiatives including Global Connect. Given the renewed attention on connectivity, we see this as a good opportunity to develop a set of principles that addresses the human rights dimension of access, and that guide human rights as a foundation for rolling out connectivity - from participation of marginalized voices, to the nature of contractual arrangements, to protection of opinion online.
>> Some of the strategy and goals moving forward may include:
>> - short-term - develop the CS draft set of general principles to be officially endorsed by the Global Connect initiative. For that, we need you to provide feedback by September 23rd.
>> - mid-term - Make those principles more concrete and implementable within IFIs standards for investment and to which Bank staff is bound to
>> - long-term - going even further, develop and implement Human Rights Due Diligence for IFIs ICT investments, building upon documents HR organizations are already working on for other HR areas impacted by the Banks work
>> Right now much of the discussion is centering around outstanding connectivity issues being essentially an engineering problem. The risk of course, if human rights do not inform connectivity initiatives, is the roll out of a censored, throttled, monitored, militarized internet and could deepen inequalities within societies.
>> We are using existing documents (i.e. WSIS+10 Outcome Document <http://workspace.unpan.org/sites/Internet/Documents/UNPAN95735.pdf>, Human Rights Council A/HRC/RES/26/13 <https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G14/082/83/PDF/G1408283.pdf?OpenElement>, Net Mundial, internet rights and principles charte <http://internetrightsandprinciples.org/site/charter/>r, and APC Internet Rights Charter <https://www.apc.org/en/system/files/APC_charter_EN_0.pdf>) to inform these principles (draft attached). We would like to welcome you to join our efforts to create rights-respecting principles to help inform the Global Connect Initiative. Our goal is to present these principles for adoption during the October meeting <http://www.imf.org/external/am/2016/index.htm> of the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), where the Working Group on Human Rights will also be launched. This work is part of our advocacy effort to ensure that human rights is a part of the MDBs grants and loans and efforts under Global Connect.
>> If you are interested, please find the draft principles attached. You can also comment on them and make suggestions here:
>> https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zZkPImVvrcEYcd9G5jQrOfxWm91761tm-tQtHRMqrSs/edit# <https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zZkPImVvrcEYcd9G5jQrOfxWm91761tm-tQtHRMqrSs/edit#>
>> Thank you and please let us know if you are interested in working with us or if you have any questions.
>> Best,
>> Peter Micek, Access Now
>> Carolina Rossini, Public Knowledge
>> --
>> Peter Micek
>> Global Policy & Legal Counsel
>> Access Now | accessnow.org <http://www.accessnow.org/>
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>>  <http://rightscon.org/>
>> tel: +1-888-414-0100 x709 <tel:1-888-414-0100%20x709>
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