The Internet in 2011: my predictions


At this time last year I put myself out on a limb and made some bold predictions about the top Internet-related topics for 2010. Fortunately, I was more right than wrong, but I stand by my original assertion that making predictions about the Internet can be a regrettable action. That said, here are the Internet-related topics I think we’re going to hear a lot about in 2011:

Net neutrality. Yes, I know the CRTC ruled on net neutrality in 2009, but that ruling doesn’t stop ISPs from slowing traffic at will; they just have to be transparent about it. It is an issue that is gaining steam in the U.S. and it’s also come up a lot in our Canadian Internet Forum consultations, an indication that it’s at the top of Canadians minds (perhaps because of incidents like this one involving Rogers). We’re going to hear a lot about net neutrality in 2011.

I blogged a lot about Internet governance in 2010, had an op-ed published in the Globe and Mail on the topic and was interviewed for this piece from CTV a couple of weeks ago. This is a topic that began to build in 2010 and I think it will continue at the same pace in 2011. The Internet is becoming more and more a force for economic growth – and a tool for terrorism and war – and nations whose intent may not be to uphold human rights or support a free economy are positioning themselves to exert control over it. The fundamental questions about who runs the Internet and the approach to its governance – multi-lateral versus multi-stakeholder – need to be resolved. The stakes are high and we’re going to have some pretty heated debates in 2011. That said, I do not think we are going to see some of the major issues resolved.

Last summer, Industry Canada held a national consultation on the development of a Digital Economy Strategy for Canada. In November, Minister Clement updated Canadians on the status of the strategy (even hinting at what it might include) and stated that it would be released in the Spring of 2011. The importance of a national digital economy strategy cannot be understated; we’re lagging behind our international counterparts – Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, among others – so many of us are eagerly anticipating its release. We are, as Sheridan Scott said in her op-ed in the Globe, overdue for a digital-economy strategy. Once released you can expect a lot of media attention placed on it. Let’s face it: with so many tools becoming automated, a digital strategy is the best way to boost productivity in any sector. Don’t just take my opinion; check out this interview with Robert Watson, the chairperson of the Information Technology Association of Canada.

The increased use of online video is a carryover from last year: Last year I had stated that sites like YouTube and Vimeo were driving people from their TVs to their computers. This year, I think the opposite is true. The launch of Netflix in Canada in 2010, along with Apple TV and Google TV, is seeing people streaming video from the Internet to their TVs. We already have full access to Netflix and Apple TV in Canada, Google TV isn’t far behind.  This is a significant change in the way people use the Internet – it has definitely moved from the desktop to the living rooms of our houses solidifying it as a part of almost all aspects of our lives.

The most alarming trend I see topping headlines in 2011 is the use of the Internet as a tool for terrorism and war. It’s enough of a threat that in 2010 the Pentagon set up Cyber Command (Cybercom) to defend U.S. military and civilian interests, while other nations attempt to identify and position their role in case of a full-blown cyber-war. In 2010, we saw the potential of the Internet as a tool for destruction, potentially in Iran and definitely when hackers started targeting websites perceived as being hostile toward Wikileaks. Side note: with this in mind, I hope Industry Canada takes CIRA’s recommendation in its submission to their Digital Economy Consultation to develop a Community Emergency Response Team.

In 2011, we’re going to see the Governmental Advisory Committee of ICANN kill the .XXX top-level domain. I said so back in July and I still believe it to be true. The .XXX story leading up to this point has really tested ICANN processes, and the GAC’s recommendation (.PDF) in August was to refuse .XXX. For better or worse, the ICANN Board will accept this advice. Come June, we will have seen the last of this story.

Some footnotes: I expect DNSSEC and IPv6 will be topics of conversation around many Canadian boardroom tables in 2011 as these very technical issues continue to go ‘mainstream’. We’ve been waiting a long time for it, but 2011 is also the year the new gTLDs are going to happen, likely at the ICANN meeting in San Francisco in May.

What do you think are going to be the top Internet-related topics of 2011?

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  • Matthew Penny

    What about Usage Based Billing.
    that has the potential for economically throttling use of the web by the people and small businesses that need it most? Will this get a good hearing during 2011, or just be shoved away by those who still believe that one has to have internet service regardless of the cost?