Broadband Internet

In order to end poverty through education using one-to-one computing, we have to provide Internet connections for the students and for new businesses in the community, whether started by students or by family and friends. To get a whole class or a whole school on the Net requires significant bandwidth. Many villages have no connection, and no possibility of getting one at reasonable cost within the current communications structure in their countries. Even in cities, Internet connections may be difficult to set up and absurdly expensive, particularly where satellite is the only option. That's the problem, looked at in the conventional manner. However, we have WiMax technology now, which can be deployed across whole countries at about $10 per person, with something like 95% coverage. Considered as an expense, that's quite high for many developing countries. Considered as an investment in economic growth, however, it's a bargain, particularly where education and microfinance are available or can be rolled out simultaneously.

Grameen Phone estimates that a single village telephone is worth about $1000 monthly to the community, in terms of opening up economic opportunity. Computers are worth more, according to a study in Harvard Business Review of the e-choupal project in India. Paying for a community Internet connection out of such profits is easy.

We need a comprehensive plan for each country, accounting for population distribution, existing telephone system connectivity (including optical fiber) and the difficulties of terrain, so that we can work out the cost of getting Internet to any village, and how that effects the cost of getting to other villages along the way.
The Internet is a network of networks, allowing almost any combination of communication technologies. Typically the high-capacity backbone links of the Internet run on optical fiber, with local distribution in developed countries on copper wire. In developing countries, copper wire would be stolen immediately, so wireless point-to-point linking is most often used for this next tier of distribution. It is common to see chains of wireless towers along every highway in these countries, with numerous antennae on each.

The next level of distribution is also commonly by point-to-point wireless, but of lower capacity. In flat, open areas where one village or town is visible from the next, it may be practical to run links from one building in the center of a town to another in each of the neighboring villages, and from those villages to others further away. In heavy forest, it may be possible to use links in treetops, and in mountainous regions links may be needed in mountain passes and on ridgelines.

Bhutan, which has the most challenging terrain in the world, has a national wireless network. The country is elongated in the east-west direction, across several Himalayan mountain valleys.