CommunityConnect! is designed to bring essential Digital Divide related
Internet connectivity, equipment, services and support to the unconnected and under-connected. We provide the leadership, partnerships, and expertise to help deliver these services and also to enable organizations, commercial or otherwise, to catalyze their own initiatives and accelerate exponential change.
There are still an estimated 3 billion people worldwide without access to affordable and effective Internet connectivity, many because they live in regions — in both advanced and emerging economies — where it is considered uneconomical to provide cost effective connectivity. In recognition of the benefits of the ‘digital premium’ that such connectivity brings, addressing this issue is now a focus for governments, NGOs and also for the growing number of international organizations whose models depend on connectivity.
CommunityConnect! is a core Geeks initiative focused on bringing the benefits of Internet connectivity — health, education, poverty reduction, gender equality and the other UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) — to the estimated 3 billion people who remain unconnected.
The Geeks’ CommunityConnect! initiative is holistic, multi-disciplinary and covers a wide range of stakeholders and related issues. For example, Geeks is advising on the deployment of community focused, Government funded, Covid related, connectivity resources. Geeks’ HumanityConnect! program addresses even the most challenged communities, including refugees, the forcibly displaced and victims of human trafficking and forced labor amongst others. Another critical aspect of Geeks’ work is facilitating regulatory innovation. Technology is only able to be effective when permitted to be so by an enabling regulatory framework. As technology is exponential and regulation linear, innovation is required to release technology’s full potential and Geeks’ RegulatoryConnect! program addresses this need.
Geeks is working with public and private-sector partners to empower communities to solve Digital Divide challenges locally and, in particular, to provide Internet connectivity and related services to the unconnected and under-connected.
Corporations: Geeks has multiple private-sector partners and has been commissioned by a global technology provider to design a playbook for municipalities to provide approaches to working with communities which ensure that when Internet service is made available, it can be readily adopted, leveraged and supported for the key services of education, health, employment, and community engagement. Geeks’ playbooks include best practices and case studies, applications and processes for accelerating broadband uptake, and community “mapping” tools to match opportunities with need.
Tribal Communities: Geeks, together with its tribal partner, MuralNet, is working with First Nation communities and has been commissioned to design a strategic Internet connectivity plan that can be leveraged to help support cost-effective delivery of key services including remote health, education, vocational training, and more. In addition, during the pandemic Geeks and MuralNet have worked with tribes to secure hundreds of thousands of PPE units and are helping to secure spectrum and government funding.
Government Deployments: Geeks is supporting pandemic-response requirements for national and local governments. Geeks’ support includes research and analysis of digital access to support COVID related telehealth, distance learning and remote working for low-to-middle income households as part of a US $1 billion COVID related package. This has included providing monitoring and compliance support for the deployment of more than 250,000 computers and hotspots for low-income households.
Government Advisory: Geeks has provided advisory services to multiple government agencies including regulatory and policy best practice, as well as utilization of effective frameworks to help bridge the Digital Divide and strengthen resilience. For example, Geeks’ CEO Co-Chaired a COVID working group for the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The group prepared a telecommunications best practices report for all agencies of the administration.
Developing Countries: Collectively, Geeks’ team has decades of experience working with private and public-sector stakeholders in Developing Countries. The initiatives and programs have included every aspect of the communications network life cycle, from strategy and business models to procurement, deployment, and operations. Regulation, policy and efficient management of spectrum resources are also central to the team’s skillsets. Geeks, along with satellite and technology partners, is currently in the early stages of organizing a project in Africa to deliver Internet connectivity and related services to unconnected and under-connected communities
Training and Capacity Building: In collaboration with governments, industry and leading international organizations, Geeks has launched a global program to build capacity and training for communications-based solutions. An example of the program was delivery of a capacity-building effort for the government of Afghanistan. The program helps to harness connectivity, technology and regulation, and combine them with stakeholder resilience strategies focused on disaster preparedness, response and recovery to help protect, save and restore lives and secure Internet connectivity.
Reaching Forcibly Displaced Populations
UNHCR estimates that there are currently 68.5 million Forcibly Displaced People. Other sources estimate that many tens of millions more will be forcibly displaced, including by climate change, over the next 30 years. From political and military conflicts to natural disasters and from slavery to human trafficking, communications hold huge potential to save and restore lives.
Geeks’ HumanityConnect! initiatives are designed to address these needs and comprise:
Refugee Empowerment. Refugee numbers are at an all-time peak and with average time in camps estimated (by UNHCR) at 17.5 years, connectivity for education, health and other critical services is an imperative. Working in partnership with UNHCR, government agencies and connectivity providers, Geeks has initiated on-site analysis of refugee needs and key performance indicators in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan with a view to attempting to develop a model program for refugee camps globally (SDG’s 1-17).
Human Rights. Promoting and supporting Human Rights is a critical part of meeting the SDG’s. An example of this work is Geeks’ USAID contract to help prevent forced labor in the Thai fishing industry. Geeks is conducting a proof-of-concept demonstration to enable crew to communicate with others onshore, while also providing commercial benefits to the vessel officers and fleet managers. The sustainability model is being developed with a view to its being capable of being deployed by any fishing fleet in the world (SDG’s 1, 3, 8, 12, and 14.)
Disaster Resilience. A critical part of supporting any community forcibly displaced by disasters is to provide connectivity. Leveraging Geeks’ CEO’s experience in supporting UN disaster resilience and recovery programs, Mr. Hartshorn was appointed to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ‘Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group’ relating to developing a communications resilience and recovery strategy for the U.S. (SDG’s 11 and 13, among others).
Geeks is a leader in regulatory innovation and Geeks’ Model Law on DigOnce! became a template for discussions at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on creating a Statewide Model Code designed to help close the Digital Divide.
Geeks’ regulatory innovations include DigOnce!, SatelliteConnect!, and work done with the FCC.
Geeks’ DigOnce! initiative is designed to help achieve the goal of bringing broadband to the next billion through the introduction of a green, intelligent, infrastructure sharing protocol designed to markedly improve the availability of broadband by materially reducing the time and cost taken to rollout fiber optic networks. At the heart of DigOnce! is model legislation designed, after careful research by Geeks’ in-house lawyers (together with input from the wider international legal community reflecting practices in different continents), to drive and inspire a global policy effort to help to close the Digital Divide. It achieves this by introducing a framework of practices, equally relevant to both advanced and emerging economies, which will bring connectivity to more people more rapidly and at a lower cost. More than 85% of fiber optic cost are related to digging the trenches for laying the fiber optic cabling.
The vision of the DigOnce! initiative allows for fiber networks to share existing utility network infrastructures (water, gas, electricity, sewage), for the installation of empty fiber optic conduits (the plastic pipes that fiber is later “blown” or “pulled” through) as existing roads are expanded, repaired or dug up to install new utilities, or new roads built. DigOnce! is also concerned with related matters such as equality of access to network information, the central coordination of civil works with a view to optimising efficiencies, the use of standardized technology facilitating cost effective choice of suppliers and to efficient network maintenance and repair protocols. The DigOnce! initiative is “green” since it advocates using existing networks to accommodate fiber or, in the alternative, to lay spare fiber conduits any time new roads are built or old ones are updated. This collectively materially reduces the road congestion and impact on the environment of repeatedly digging up roads due to a lack of a centralized broadband development and related civil works policy.
The diverse benefits of DigOnce! are just as applicable to existing infrastructures in major international cities as they are to new infrastructures in emerging economies such as new roads funded by the European Union, the International Finance Corporation, the African and Asian Development Banks. It has equal relevance to The International Telecommunications Union’s Broadband Commission which is now focused, from a policy point of view, on how to bring together concepts of broadband Internet with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. The DigOnce! model legislation is designed for use by governments and NGOs around the world to use as a template for considering how best to bring the social, educational and financial benefits of broadband to the greatest number of people quickly and efficiently. The success of this initiative will require a tremendous amount of outreach and advocacy and continual education of the compelling benefits of DigOnce!. However, there is an increasing level of recognition by the international community supporting the need for a green, intelligent, infrastructure sharing protocol capable of improving the lives of billions of people within a ten year period. Download Model Law – (Adobe PDF) Also see: SatelliteConnect! Best Practices for Satellite Network Operators, Regulators,and Service Providers & Integrators – (Adobe PDF)
SatelliteConnect! is GEEK’s award-winning initiative which received strong support from the satellite and connectivity communities and which is designed to drive and inspire a global policy effort to close the Digital Divide, to accelerate satellite broadband connectivity to the estimated 4.2 billion people who do not have the benefit of Internet access, and to help meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
SatelliteConnect! is a code of best practices for Satellite Operators, Regulators, Service Providers and Integrators, designed to help promote the more rapid and cost-effective deployment of satellite broadband to communities globally. The initiative would not have been possible without the knowledge, experience and commitment of our expert working group, which included BLUETOWN, EchoStar Corporation, Eutelsat S.A., The Global VSAT Forum (GVF), ManSat LLC, SES S.A. and law firm Reed Smith LLP.
Since its release at the Geeks annual conference in Washington D.C. in October 2017, SatelliteConnect! has also been endorsed by the EMEA Satellite Operators Association (ESOA), the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, the Asian Pacific Satellite Communications Council (APSCC), Telesat, Intelsat, the Space & Satellite Professionals International (SSPI), the International Space University (ISU), the International Institute of Space Commerce (IISC), the Danish Telecom Industry Association (TI), the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) and the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Following the publication of DigOnce!, Geek’s Co-founders Michael Potter and John Morris were appointed by US Federal Communications Commission to help draft a ‘Model Code for States’ to accelerate broadband deployment and investment and to close the Digital Divide.