African countries have gone through a mobile revolution which has transformed access to communication on the continent in the last 20 years. However, as demand for broadband grows, access penetration is slowing. There is a growing body of evidence that suggest current connectivity strategies will fail to connect everyone, poor rural communities in particular. Those of us with access to the Internet accept the increasing social and economic benefits of access as normal, often without considering how the unconnected are increasingly disempowered as a result. This need not be the case. A new wave of technological and organisational innovation offers an alternative vision of access that could empower everyone. Small-scale commercial and community network operators can address access gaps if they are empowered by effective regulation and investment.