Joint Committee on The Draft Communications Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Henry O'Tani


  The technical innovation of licence exempt Wireless LANS (WLANs) releasing high speed data interconnections from buildings, makes it possible to develop something entirely new in ICT namely "Amateur and Community LANs". These are not-for-profit, local community owned and managed Social ICT broad band networks. They introduce the welcome prospect of completely profit-free broadband internet access, local non-commercial (internet) radio, television, telephone and video communications . . . delivered via a local small community owned co-operative, business or club. (eg see The National Telephone Cooperative Association )

  Profit free broadband access can give access to high quality video media for all sections of the community such as the very young, sick, elderly, unemployed and disadvantaged. Free high speed broadband access additionally offers quality internet based face-to-face conferencing, counselling and cosmopolitan initiatives in culture and education which would otherwise for many years to come be the exclusive gift of wealthy upmarket consumers and businesses alone. Free broadband will be of enormous permanent benefit to children and young people and poorly resourced lower schools without their own telephones, ISDN or 'DSL etc. It can enhance "teleworking" just by its speed and immediate realisation of quality face-to-face video. It can encourage interest and self-training in all aspects of Community Media as well as technical Network Administration and Systems Development as widespread enthusiast activities (like Ham Radio) hitherto not seen perhaps since the Amateur BBS FidoNet BBS days of the 1980s and early 1990s.

  This provision of free, quality, high speed broadband access to a network can encourage participation in modern neighbourhood community development offering free local mobile telephone calls (eg and the lowest cost internet access. Initial studies show that our not-for-profit ethic can deliver end user connections for 7 per cent of the existing commercial costs. By being provided at its real low cost, wireless broadband community internet can reduce our dependence on the remote decisions of commercial companies as well as bringing broadband to communities that cannot or will not be reached by cable or 'DSL services.

  "Who is to Bell the Cat?"

July 2002

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