Background

The Internet is heralded as the eighth wonder of the world connecting 2 billion people around the world. With the profound success of mobile phones (it is estimated that 5 billion people have mobile phones) the "connected" world is expected to get bigger and bigger. Internet has crossed new frontiers with access getting faster and cheaper. New applications and services are being offered. At one extreme, the future Internet is expected to transport applications such as tele-immersion and 3DTV and at the other extreme to connect vast numbers of tiny devices integrated into appliances, sensors, actuators, and a range of previously independent systems forming the notion of "Internet of Things". Sensors have now become all-pervasive and are more and more seen as a solution to large-scale tracking and monitoring applications in particular health monitoring applications. Affordable devices that enable remote health monitoring of patients are available. Using sensors and mobile devices within communities, researchers even understand social structures of communities creating social networks and using these networks to predict epidemic spread within communities. The Internet is now an all powerful medium.


On one end, the access speeds are getting faster and services are being developed to utilize faster access. On the other end, there are people and communities who do not have access to the Internet at all. Some may not be able to get it due to lack of infrastructure support (which accounts to the notion of digital divide problem faced by most people in developed countries). There have been significant initiatives to solve the problem of affordable infrastructure. Crucially, most of these approaches address infrastructural barriers without addressing economic ones. Pricing is left to the market. However leaving connectivity for all to be governed by market economics is also seen as a major impediment, and that basic Internet access should be made freely available to all due to its societal benefits, a sentiment recently expressed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Solution


The LCD-Net: Lowest Cost Denominator Networking initiative is a new Internet paradigm that architects multi-layer resource pooling Internet technologies to support new low-cost access methods that would enable free Internet connectivity to enable social inclusion. The cross-disciplinary nature of this initiative cross cutting Computer Science, Social Science, Economics, Law and Policy Research will help uncover the incentives and games that produce successful strategies for getting closer to 100% coverage of Internet access. The initiative is led by Prof. Jon Crowcroft and Dr. Arjuna Sathiaseelan from the Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge.

Ongoing Projects

PAWS: Public Access WiFi Service project aims to utilise the unused capacity at home broadband networks to provide free Internet access to all to access essential services. The project extends the stakeholder value chain for incentivising Internet access deployment by including more than the two traditional parties (consumer and Internet service provider), for example, adding local government, who have a vested interest in decreasing the cost of human-centered service, and replacing these costly interactions with online services, which already prove popular with existing Internet users. This project is funded by the 
EPSRC. The project has several partners: Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute, Rural Digital Economy Hub (funded through its partnership fund), BT, SamKnows, Nottingham City Council and the Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

New Satellite Access Methods to Provide Lower than Best Effort Internet Access is a three year project funded by the French Space Agency and Thales Alenia Space to explore new low-cost satellite access methods. The project is in collaboration with TESA/ISAE.



Presentations

Enabling free connectivity for underprivileged communities [pdf]
A. Sathiaseelan, given at Center for Sustainable International Development, University of Aberdeen and School of Computer Science, St. Andrews, 2011.


Publications

LCD-Net: Lowest Cost Denominator Networking
A. Sathiaseelan, J. Crowcroft, ACM Computer Communications Review, April 2013.


Internet on the Move: Challenges and Solutions
A. Sathiaseelan, J. Crowcroft, ACM Computer Communications Review, January 2013.

Public Access WiFi Service (PAWS)
A. Sathiaseelan, J. Crowcroft, M. Goulden, C. Greiffenhagen, R. Mortier, G. Fairhurst, D. McAuley, Digital Economy All Hands Meeting, Aberdeen, October 2012. [pdf]

The free Internet - a distant mirage or near reality?
A. Sathiaseelan, J. Crowcroft, UCAM Tech Report, February 2012. [pdf]