Observations on WCIT-12

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The World Conference on Information Technology (WCIT-12) has ended and I’ve had a few days to mentally digest what I witnessed as a member of the Canadian delegation.

WCIT-12 was a meeting of member nations of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to discuss the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), the agreements that regulate global telecommunications traffic. A number of proposals were put forward at WCIT-12 that would extend the reach of the ITRs over the Internet.

As you are likely aware, there was much disagreement over these proposals, with the pro- and anti-ITU sides so polarized it resembled an online Cold War.

By the end of the negotiations, a draft treaty was put to a vote and passed with two-thirds support. The final agreement includes a number of provisions that left many nations unable to sign it, including provisions related to spam (‘unsolicited bulk electronic communications’ in bureaucratic speak) and a definition of ‘operating agency’, i.e. the organizations covered by the treaty, that may be interpreted as including Internet service providers and content producers.

What does this mean?

In the end, consensus wasn’t reached, but there was agreement among a group of countries – 89 countries signed the updated ITRs. Once you dig a little deeper, an interesting story starts to emerge.

I compared the list of countries who signed the ITRs with the Democracy Index, a ranking of nations based on a number of categories to measure their democratic state.

There is a clear correlation between a country’s ranking on the democratic index and the likelihood they supported the revised ITRs:

Ninety-one per cent of countries that are identified as ‘full democracy’ and voted at WCIT-12 did NOT support the ITRs. This number steadily declines as a country’s democratic ranking declines, to the point where only 8.6 per cent of ‘authoritarian regimes’ did not support them. The flip side of this story is worth stating: the more democratic a nation is, the least likely it is to support the ITU extending its reach over the Internet.

What does this mean for the Internet?

What we are potentially looking at now, in my opinion, may be the development of a two-tiered Internet. Those countries that supported the new ITRs and that go on to ratify the agreement will have, at least in their opinion, the support of an international treaty to limit and monitor, if not censor, Internet traffic transiting across its borders.

Part of the world’s population, primarily those that live in the First World, will continue to have access to the free and open Internet and all of its benefits. The rest of the world, primarily those that live in the developing world, will have access to some lesser version of the Internet.

You can bet that some of the larger content producers are simply just not going to bother offering content or services to much of the world.  This could very well mean that a content producer in Canada will be subject to the ITRs if it is available in those countries. And, as I explained in my last post, Internet traffic doesn’t travel point-to-point. It is broken into many different packets of information which individually take the most efficient route possible. What if that route transits through a country that has signed on to the new ITRs?

Think about that against the backdrop of the above info-graphic. It is primarily countries in the developing world that supported the new ITRs. This means that it will be the developing world that will not have access to the same information free and open democracies, like Canada, do.

In Dubai, we may have witnessed history, but not of the good kind. I believe it is one where the free and open Internet – the Internet that has allowed free speech, democracy and economic development to flourish – will only be available to the citizens of the developed world. The citizens of the developing world – the people who could most benefit from the free and open Internet, from the free flow of information, and from access to global markets for their products and services – will be deprived of these benefits.

Leading up to the conference, there was much hyperbole (the Internet control doomsayers) and placating (i.e. “the ITU isn’t interested in the Internet”).  Unfortunately, the possible creation of a two-tier Internet means that WCIT-12 lived up to the hyperbole more than it allayed the fears of many of the delegates.

In the end, however, only time will tell.

 


The ITU’s World Conference on International Telecommunications

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I’m about to leave for Dubai as part of the Canadian delegation to the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12).

You’ve undoubtedly heard of this meeting – it has been receiving an incredible amount of attention in the mainstream media and online. There has been a phenomenal amount of activity on Twitter about WCIT-12, and it has been the topic of many conversations in the Internet governance world, both at the table and in the hallway, for the past six months.

In fact, my last blog post was about a campaign I am endorsing called ‘Stop the Net Grab’.  This initiative opposes certain proposals to the WCIT-12 that would see the ITU regulate the Internet’s quality of service, billing settlement and security.

‘Stop the Net Grab’ isn’t the only campaign to oppose any proposals that would see the ITU have increased influence or control over the Internet. As I write this, nearly 40,000 individuals from over 180 countries, as well as more than 1,500 organizations, had signed the Statement to Protect Global Internet Freedom. This grassroots effort is founded on the principle that “Internet governance decisions should be made in a transparent manner with genuine multistakeholder participation from civil society, governments, and the private sector.”

It’s the first meeting in 25 years to revisit the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), the regulations that govern and standardize telecommunications activities globally and there are many people and organizations who are opposed to having any part of the Internet put under the control of the ITU. Their reasons are many and varied. I tend to fall in this category as well, and I’d like to take this opportunity to explain why.

The ITRs will be opened and explored with an eye to updating them. Let’s be frank, this is fundamentally a good thing. It’s time some standards and regulations were established around mobile, especially in terms of roaming, for example. The ITU does some very good and important work.

The fact is, however, there are some member states who would like to take this opportunity to further their own agendas. The ITU’s membership is comprised of nation states, many of whom are representatives from nationalized telecommunications organizations.

It’s what some of those representatives want that concerns me the most. Some of them would like to profit from the growing Internet traffic (which, by the way, is growing at the expense of traditional telephone traffic).

Certainly understandable.

However, the impact of putting a traditional telecom model on the Internet is incredibly problematic. To profit from Internet traffic would mean putting in place a mechanism to measure traffic. This is reasonably easy in the telecom world. Telephone calls are point to point – one person calls another, there’s a toll booth in the middle, and the caller gets billed. It’s called the sender pays model, and has been very successful in the telephony world.

The Internet doesn’t work that way. When you send an email or access a website, you are not making a point to point connection. Information sent over the Internet is broken into many individual packets of information, and it could take just as many paths to reach its destination.

We have developed this info-graphic to help explain how these two models for information traffic compare:

 

I have another reason for opposing some kind of sender pays model on the Internet. Some of these telecom guys have a much more nefarious reason for wanting to put some level of control over Internet traffic. Think about the number of countries which do not have a strong commitment to human rights and democracy, and you can get a pretty good idea of how much of the global Internet traffic could come under significant surveillance.

Once you put in place a mechanism that measure traffic, it’s pretty easy to adapt it to monitor traffic as well. All of a sudden, the Internet as a democratizing force no longer exists.

Truth is, the ITU is not a bad organization. And, much of the work it does is for the betterment of our global society. However, it is only as good as its members, and if enough of them decide to implement a particular course of action, the rest of us are unable to do anything about it.

Here’s the facts: the ITU has to come out with something at the end of this meeting. It is inconceivable that an organization as venerable as the ITU could bring together thousands of delegates from nearly 200 countries for the first time in 25 years, and not have a tangible outcome. I’m sure that in the UN community, that would be rather embarrassing. So, we can definitely expect something; let’s just hope it doesn’t jeopardize the global Internet.

Because this is a closed, treaty-based meeting – and the fact there is 9 hours difference between Ottawa and Dubai – I will be limited in my communications. This blog and likely my Twitter account will have limited activity, but I do encourage you to follow the conference online and via the Twitter hashtag #WCIT12. I will blog about the experience and the discussions when I return home.


The ‘Stop the Net Grab’ campaign

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I am throwing my support behind an international campaign that started on Monday to oppose certain proposals by member states to an upcoming international conference of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the body that is responsible for telecommunications traffic globally. While there are some very valid proposals in the mix, such as regulating mobile roaming, there are other proposals that would seek to put certain key elements of the Internet under control of the ITU, a United Nations co-ordinated, multi-national body. A number of ITU member countries are expected to put forward proposals to amend the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), with the objective of regulating key aspects of the Internet at the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications Regulations (WCIT) in Dubai in December. The proposals that concern me most seek to regulate (1) quality of service, (2) billing settlement and (3) security.

I am an outspoken supporter of the multi-stakeholder model for Internet governance – the model currently employed by ICANN, the organization at the centre of the Internet governance world – and  have written about this subject before.

Why do I believe it would be a mistake to have the above noted elements of the Internet fall under the control of the ITU?

First, the telephony model that the ITU uses to govern telecommunications cannot be ported directly to the Internet as it is incompatible based on the Internet’s architecture, not to mention that tracking network transactions to calculate billing is practically impossible.

Second, the rapid pace of innovation and development of the Internet can be attributed to its bottom-up management and open standards setting processes and to the limited scope of regulation by national governments. The ITU’s top-down decision-making processes run counter to evolutionary approaches to changing technology. Additionally, there is a potential for unrelated higher level state-to-state politics to interfere with Internet governance decision-making. This could curtail the rapid innovation in technology and applications that has characterized the Internet and risk slowing down the development and diffusion of this platform for innovation, creativity, education, entertainment, development, and social interaction.

Third, I would caution that the focus of certain ITU member states on security is being used as a siren song. Yes, there are many very serious security concerns facing the Internet today, and I have no doubt this will continue in the future. We need to think this through carefully, however. Is a state-to-state body the right kind of entity to regulate security? The widely held concern of many in the Internet community is that states that are less than democratic will use their influence to ensure the Internet is more closely monitored, rather than safeguarding its free and open nature.

I am not alone in my support of the multi-stakeholder model. Countries, individuals and organizations from around the world support the current system for running the Internet, including the Canadian government. At a recent meeting of the International Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the President of the Treasury Board, the Honourable Tony Clement also reaffirmed the Government of Canada’s support for the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. This is a governance model that reflects the uniqueness of the Internet itself which we must work to preserve and evolve. Personally, I do not believe this success can be replicated with the aforementioned proposals being put forward for approval at the ITU meeting in December.

The multi-stakeholder model may not be perfect, but I do not believe it is in the best interests of Canadians, or the global population, to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. I’ll explain this in a future blog post.

I therefore call on you, as a member of the Canadian Internet community, to support this initiative in opposing proposals that would see the ITU regulate the Internet’s quality of service, billing settlement and security. Please take the time to sign this online petition showing your support for the free and open Internet. This petition can be found here.

 


Canadians Connected 2012

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On Tuesday, we hosted Canadians Connected 2012, CIRA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Internet symposium. This was the first AGM we’ve held in Ottawa in CIRA’s 11 year history, and with the reception we received, it won’t be the last.

We heard from a couple of great speakers. Scott Stratten, author of UnMarketing and The Book of Business Awesome, is a very engaging presenter. He left the audience in awe at his high energy style and innovative opinions on marketing in the new digital age. Scott is a friend of ours at CIRA – he has spoken at a couple of events that we held for our Registrars.

Biz Stone, the co-creator of Twitter, closed the day with a fascinating keynote presentation. By linking a series of stories and anecdotes of his career, I think most of us were inspired to take risks and push the limits of creativity.

Biz also spoke about altruism and the future of business. He believes that altruism isn’t just good for the community, it’s good for business. The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, according to Biz, you can do better by doing ‘good’ for the community. He said that consumers are attracted to meaning, and as a result, the future of marketing is philanthropy. It is through doing ‘good’ that a corporation creates value.

We live that at CIRA, as we try to play a role that is meaningful to Canadians. That’s why we support the development of the open source software called Bind10, the next generation of the software that essentially makes the domain name system work. It’s why we hold the Canadian Internet Forum, it’s why we recently started supporting techu.me, an organization dedicated to getting young people interesting in a career in technology, and it’s why we actively support the development of digital literacy in Canada through our work with MediaSmarts.

The two keynotes provided a good balance, and bookended what was a very successful AGM for CIRA.

While the AGM agenda included the usual items, a Member update on CIRA activities and financial reports, at this AGM we called on CIRA Members to vote on some changes to our governance structure and processes. These changes are the result of many months of work on behalf of the CIRA staff and Board of Directors, and have been the topic for a few blog posts.

I am happy to report that the changes were approved by a vote of the CIRA Membership at the AGM. As an organization, we are now ready for when the new federal legislation governing not-for-profits comes into force in 2014.

We will be posting videos of the AGM on our YouTube Channel soon. In the meantime, we’ve posted some photographs from the day here.

 


Internet Exchange Points in Canada: a roadmap

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I think most of the regular readers of this blog know that I am a proponent of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs). Fundamentally, an IXP is a local network bridge that results in local network traffic taking shorter, faster paths between member networks.

At CIRA, we believe that a robust network of IXPs in Canada would result in a number of key benefits, from cost savings to increased speed, and increased bandwidth, reduced latency, and enabling Canadian data to remain in Canada (and therefore not subject to the laws of a foreign jurisdiction).

For the past year, CIRA has been working with a number of community-based organizations to develop IXPs in cities across Canada. We set up a wiki to facilitate a national dialogue on IXPs. You can view and participate in those conversations here.

We have developed the following visual representation of CIRA’s vision for the role of IXPs in a digitally-connected Canada:

CIRA’s vision for a network of IXPs in Canada from Canadian Internet Registration Authority

We also engaged Packet Clearing House (PCH), a leading not-for-profit Internet traffic research institute, to develop a white paper highlighting the opportunities and challenges to developing a network of IXPs in Canada. PCH are really the global experts in this field. They have been involved in the development of more than 150 IXs since they were formed in 1994. They provided a set of recommendations about IXP locations, technical specifications and governance structures that would ensure success. That report, titled Towards Efficiencies in Canadian Internet Traffic, is available here.

In essence, this report provides us with a roadmap for the development of IXPs in Canada. I’d like to highlight some of the key points.

The authors identified a need to develop a network of IXPs in Canada, and found that the benefits of doing so will be real and tangible. Canada currently has about one IXP per 17 million citizens. Compare that with a rate of one per four million in the United States or one per two million in Australia, and the need becomes clear.

Clearly, we are underserviced as Canadians. If we act on their recommendations, Canada would have a network of IXPs that connects us from coast to coast to coast.

The authors looked at a number of IXPs around the globe, including TORIX and OTTIX in Canada, and identified some common elements among the governance structures and processes of the successful ones. In terms of governance, successful IXPS:

1. Are consortia of their network-operator participants, including Internet service providers (ISPs), content distribution networks, research and evaluation networks, and other relevant exchange members.

2. Very often IXPs are not-for-profits, and do not stand to gain financially from their success and are politically neutral in their activities. They tend to have a very democratic governance structure – all participants have an equal voice. That means that one participant cannot have a disproportionate level of control over the IXP.

3. Never compete with their participants, nor do they engage in for profit ventures. They also tend to operate at little to no cost, and tend not to place a cost burden on their participants.

With this report, we have the benchmark study to build a network of IXPs in Canada. Not only does it address the ‘how to’ at an individual IXP level, but it also identifies the opportunities and challenges for the development of a network of IXPs in Canada.

If you have an interest in seeing Canada become a digital leader, please take the time to read this important paper.

And, will you help us establish IXPs by getting involved in your local community and by participating in the discussion on our Wiki?


Guest post by Paul Andersen: Results of CIRA’s Outreach on Governance

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In this post, Paul Andersen, Chair of the CIRA Board of Directors, discusses the findings of the recent outreach on changes to CIRA’s governance structure and processes.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog or you follow CIRA’s activities, you’ll know that we recently held an outreach with our .CA Members regarding proposed changes to our governance. The organization has been looking on and off at a major overhaul to our governance structure over the past few years. After all, the last time significant changes were made to CIRA’s bylaws was in 2006. Recently, changes to the legislation that governs not-for-profits like CIRA require CIRA to make changes to its bylaws.  This resulted in us revisiting this topic.

Since there are a number of changes to the by-laws that are a result of the new legislation, as the Board we decided that it was time to review the organization’s governance processes and structures as a whole. We set out to fix what we saw as a heavily burdensome election process and improve efficiencies at the Board level. CIRA spends a disproportionate amount of time running an annual election process. In fact, the current process consumes the better part of a year. There are other issues with the current Board and elections process:

- The current size of the Board was established over a decade ago when there was little by way of staff and resources. As I stated in my last guest post on this blog, CIRA has evolved, and in response the Board’s role has changed from a heavily operational role to a much more strategic one. A smaller, leaner board would be more efficient.

- There have been no term limits for Directors. To ensure a diversity of voices on the Board, we had proposed term limits.

- The current election process has a complicated split ballot system. The Board and the organization agree that this system has created a large number of issues. A number of concerned Members have spoken to me about how complicated – and therefore unappealing – the current election process is. First, there appears to be a misunderstanding among .CA Members that since there are two classes of directors – one elected through the Member slate and one through the nomination committee slate that a director elected through the Member slate should somehow represent the community that elected them. (Fact is, all directors, regardless of how they are elected, must always act in the best interest of the organization, not any particular stakeholder group.

These issues have resulted in several – I’ll call them unorthrodox – processes, such as the show of support stage and two nomination stages. These processes serve to lengthen and complicate the election, confusing many trying to run. The majority of our current Board agree that more of the resources spent on the election should be put toward running .CA, and that the process should be one that attracts the best candidates to fill any gaps on the Board.

From April 2 to May 2 this year, we engaged .CA Members in a dialogue about the proposed changes. From the beginning, we wanted this to be an open and transparent process. .CA Members are one of CIRA’s key stakeholders, and we wanted to hear from them on the proposed changes to our governance processes and structures.

On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank the .CA Members who participated in the outreach for sharing their views – hearing from Members on such matters is important. We take this feedback very seriously, and the fact is, we didn’t set out on this process to confirm our proposal. Rather, we consulted with Canadians to ensure that the changes that we move ahead with are right for CIRA and the Canadian Internet community.

The Board believes the proposed changes are in the best interest of .CA. If we didn’t we would not have proposed them. So as a Board, we now find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum.

Based on the amount of feedback received and after reviewing as a group the proposal, the Board is not comfortable moving ahead with the proposed changes that were not necessary to transition to the new legislation. While we did our best to promote the feedback process through emails to .CA Members, social media and other means, we only received 28 responses. We currently have more than 15,000 .CA Members. Are the 28 submissions representative of the entire .CA Membership? We don’t know, and for that reason, it is very difficult for us to move forward either way. Fact is, CIRA has never had attendance at an Annual General Meeting of less than 100. In fact, at the February 2006 Special Members Meeting (the last time by-law changes were discussed), there were more than 500 people involved in the discussion.

What went wrong here? I am first to admit we have, over the past decade, struggled with Membership engagement. For that reason, the organization has invested countless resources over the past four years, including hiring a Communications Manager responsible for Membership engagement and developing new tools for reaching out to Members. While we have seen a significant increase in Membership engagement, our community engagement (for example, the Canadian Internet Forum and the.CA Impact Awards) has met with enthusiastic response. Is the fact that we received minimal response for an issue as important as changes to our governance structure and process is an indication that we have much work to do? Is it a matter that while governance is important to us, it might not be for our membership? Or should we understand the silence on behalf of .CA Members as consent? These are the questions we are grappling with.

The working group within the Board tasked with governance changes – and ultimately the entire Board of Directors – spent countless hours struggling with the feedback. It is not a large enough sample for us to understand how representative it is of the Canadian Internet community. Nevertheless we received it and we take it very seriously.

The majority of responses received was in opposition of the removal of the Members’ slate of candidates or expressed a level of distrust of the Nomination Committee. There was also some concern expressed about the proposed reduction in the size of the Board of Directors.

I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss the feedback.

We proposed a single slate of candidates for the Board election through a nomination committee. Why? Because the split ballot process (Member and Nomination Committee slates) is both confusing and time consuming. Anecdotal feedback indicated that we were potentially turning people away who didn’t want to participate in such a confusing process. While CIRA has had a nominating committee for many years, it had been criticized for not being transparent enough. The Board has recognized some of the concerns for some time now. While we are deeply proud of the output of this group, we understand it can look a little bit like electing the pope (everyone goes in, puff of smoke, output).

Not the best process when you are trying to convey a commitment to transparency.

The feedback we received indicated a high level of concern – I would go so far as to say distrust – greatly expressed over the Nomination Committee as an “insiders club” and a tool for Board “self-perpetuation.” Fact is, this has never been a reality under current mechanism. We now clearly understand that any future review needs to better address how the Nomination Committee is selected.

We proposed a variety of mechanisms that would improve transparency and accountability to the stakeholders of CIRA, and truly believed that they would add value to the current system. You can view the proposal here.

A nomination committee is not only common practice, but is considered by many to be a best practice in the realm of corporate governance. CIRA has gone through efforts to ensure that there is a great deal of independence in how the Nomination Committee operates, and the reality is that the Board needs a diversity of various skills and stakeholders to be effective. The beauty of the Internet, and of global Internet governance, is that ALL stakeholders have an equal voice. It is the diversity of voices making decisions about the development of the Internet that have enabled it to become the incredible success it is. As a Professional Engineer, I feel free to say that CIRA’s Board needs a balance of voices, and not an abundance of engineers. These voices could include policy, marketing, engineering, finance, and end user voices, among others. And while no governance system is perfect, it is the nomination committee process that attempts to ensure this delicate balance.

That said, here’s what we are doing.

Given the feedback received and the continued Membership engagement, the Board has decided to move ahead with only the changes the changes we believe are essential to transition to the new legislation governing not-for-profits. Accordingly, at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) this fall we will only be asking .CA Members to approve those changes required to our bylaws so that we can transition to the new Act – the changes can be viewed here.  Given the importance of governance to an organization, and the short time frames before our AGM this fall, we felt it important not to proceed at this time with major governance changes without further review and outreach.

The domain industry is changing and CIRA needs to ensure .CA is well positioned to succeed in the new competitive landscape. While I believe an improved governance structure is important, I think the CIRA Board needs to take some time to learn from this experience, and to possibly look at alternate ways to engage with .CA Members. The Board will also need to engage in a broad discussion of what membership means. We cannot continue to seek feedback in which we only hear from 0.1 per cent of our Members.

I look forward to working with CIRA’s membership to implement these legislated changes.

Thanks to those who provided feedback, and thanks to all .CA Members for your interest in building a stronger Internet.

Paul Andersen, P.Eng.

Chairperson, Board of Directors

 

 

 

 


Broadband speed and price: Where does Canada rank?

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Last year, we released an info-graphic about Canada’s ranking in 2010 with regard to broadband speed and cost. The graphic was based on OECD data, and we were surprised at how popular it turned out to be. The OECD recently released data on broadband speed and cost for 2011, and we’ve created another info-graphic based on this new information.

How did Canada fair in 2011? Breaking the top 20, Canada moved up four places from 23rd to 19th. In actual numbers, the story is even more promising. Average advertised price per megabyte per second (mbps) actually decreased 20 per cent to $3.29. Even more interesting, average advertised speed more than doubled from 21 mbps to 45 mbps.

It would appear Canada is making progress on the broadband front. That is, unless you take a deeper look at the numbers.

Fact is, Canada made an 11 per cent gain in ranking based on a 20 per cent decrease in price and more than 100 per cent increase in speed. So while we made gains in true numbers, those gains are barely keeping pace with the other 33 countries that are a part of the study.

You can see this year’s info-graphic here.

Why do I think broadband speed and price are so important? Because broadband speed and price are a nation’s digital currency. If we want Canada to be a digital leader, we need to make our currency attractive to businesses. As I stated in my last post, over the past decade Canada has lost its leadership position in the global digital economy. We can’t afford to settle for the status quo.

It’s time for us to retake our position as a global digital leader. Please get informed and make your voice heard. Together, we can build a stronger Canadian Internet.


Guest post by John Demco: 25 years of .CA

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In this post John Demco, a CIRA Board of Directors member and known to many as Canada’s ‘godfather’ of the Internet, discusses the first 25 years of .CA.

It has been 25 years since Jon Postel, operator of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), delegated the .CA domain extension to my responsibility. At the time, I was working for the University of British Columbia, and ran the .CA registry with a small group of volunteers. Though it’s an enjoyable experience for me to look back on those times, I’d also like to take this opportunity to discuss just how far .CA has come over the past quarter century.

When I think about it, the world of technology has changed dramatically since 1987. There have been remarkable changes in CPU size and speed, memory, disk storage, network bandwidth, and so on. If we assume Moore’s Law to be correct, computer technology has come a very long way in the past 25 years (in fact, it would have grown by a multiple of more than 5,000). And while Internet access in Canada in 1987 was virtually unknown, the Internet is now accessible in eight out of 10 Canadian households. It has also become very much a global entity, playing a significant role in enhancing the economies of many nations, and in the spread of democracy.

With all of the good, we’ve seen some less than good things come as a result of the tremendous growth of the Internet. For example, the proliferation of cyber-crime, evidenced recently by the high-profile DNS Changer virus, and the emergence of Internet technologies as tools for war and terrorism. And, we are having to rethink how we view privacy with the emergence of social media.

To say that the Internet touches the lives of every Canadian in one way or another is not exaggeration, and that’s one of the reasons I feel fortunate to have spent the last 25 years working with .CA.

I believe .CA is in a better position than at any other time in its history. We’re about to reach two million .CA domains registered, a major milestone. CIRA is the 14th largest country-code registry in the world, and .CA is the fourth fastest growing top-level domain. With CIRA, we have a world-class organization with excellent staff, management and Board of Directors. CIRA is recognized by its global counterparts as being one of the most respected registries, with top notch technical infrastructure and operations and a commitment to working with its stakeholders. The Canadian Internet Forum (CIF) is a shining example of how CIRA is trying to bring the discussion about the development of the Internet to all Canadians.

We’ve managed to keep CIRA at the cutting edge of Internet technologies. CIRA is currently working on implementing Internationalized Domain Names, an initiative that will see French language characters in .CA domain names. And, we’ll be enabling DNSSEC later this year, contributing to the safety and security of Canada’s Internet.

It has been a great pleasure and privilege to have been involved with .CA since its beginning. The one constant throughout has been the great people who have worked so hard for the best interest of Canada’s Internet community. .CA is more than a top-level domain. It really is Canada’s online identity.

It was tremendously exciting in 1987, and it’s just as exciting now. Fact is, it may be even more exciting in the future.


Laying the foundation for a higher performing Internet in Canada

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For many of you, I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but over the past decade Canada has lost its leadership position in the global digital economy.

In just about any indicator you care to pick, from the OECD to the Berkman Center, it is clear that Canada has slipped into the bottom quartile compared to its international counterparts. I’m not just talking about pipes and pricing, I’m talking about the entire Internet ecosystem, from innovation and venture capital to policy and infrastructure.

On the infrastructure side, this is particularly evident in Canada’s very low number of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs).

An IXP allows local network traffic to take shorter, faster paths between member networks, alleviating congestion on major Internet backbones and helping to reduce network costs. This results in a substantial improvement in local Internet performance and resiliency. The benefit is highly visible to end-users who would, as an example, experience less jitter when using Skype or watching video. With the current infrastructure, packets must travel much further than they would were there an IXP nearby, reducing latency and improving resiliency.

There are about 350 IXPs around the world and they have proven to be integral to the Internet infrastructure of many nations. The United States has about 85, thanks largely to the efforts of the private sector. In Canada we have only two, notably OTTIX in Ottawa and TORIX in Toronto.

Simply put, Canada is not keeping pace with other OECD countries.

There is nothing to be gained by dwelling in the past and pointing fingers of blame about why this was allowed to happen. What we must focus on today is where we need to go and what it will take to get there. As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the .CA domain this year, it is more important than ever to take stock of how we can continue to improve the Internet in Canada and ensure that we have a strong digital economy for the next 25 years.

Last fall at the ISP Summit in Toronto, I asked Canada’s Internet business leaders to join me in working together to restore Canada’s position as a leading tech nation. Part of what I called on them to do is work with us to establish a robust community of IXPs across Canada. For the past seven months, CIRA has been talking to community-based stakeholders about IXPs, and we recently launched an IXP wiki for these stakeholders to share their activities with regard to establishing IXPs.

Based on independent expert research that identifies optimal IXP locations based on data flow, population and geography, CIRA has identified a number of locations across the country that would be ideally situated for IXPs. We’ve started a dialogue with a number of interested parties, such as Winnipeg’s MBIX, Montreal’s B2B2C, Colbanet, Oricom, Teksavvy, Telnet Communications, Electronic Box, and VIF Internet. We’ve also been speaking with members of the Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Halifax’s Internet communities. A meeting of the Montreal community members will be held shortly.

Creating more IXPs is about improving security, speed and network resilience, while maximizing the amount of traffic that stays within Canada for the benefit of all Canadians. While CIRA has no desire to operate IXPs, we are committed to bringing together the resources necessary to facilitate their development. We can’t do this alone; it will require investments, new servers and other hardware to achieve the vision. Today, we are once again calling on all stakeholders in Canada’s digital economy, including network operators, Internet service providers (ISPs) and others from the public and private sectors to work together and with CIRA to create more IXPs across the country.

It’s not like we have to clear new ground to create these IXPs. We can learn from the pioneers in the Canadian IXP space – TORIX and OTTIX. In fact, CIRA already has a relationship with these IXPs (we are a member both of these organizations), and we look forward to continuing these positive relationships and learning from the expertise that they bring to the table.

If we are to compete on the global marketplace, we as a nation must have the vision and commitment to build the modern infrastructure required. A robust Canadian Internet infrastructure, including a nation-wide fabric of IXPs, is the 21st century equivalent of the railway that connected our country in the 19th century. If we could achieve that, we can certainly achieve this.

Keeping more of our domestic traffic in Canada will improve security, speed of data and network resilience for the benefit of all Canadians. We have to do this, because no one else will do it for us and we can’t afford to settle for the status quo. As we prepare to celebrate all things Canadian on July 1, what better time to continue this discussion in earnest.


Guest Post: The .CA Impact Awards

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In this post CIRA’s Director, Marketing & Communications, David Fowler discusses the 2012 .CA Impact Awards and introduces us to the four winners:

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of announcing the winners of the .CA Impact Awards at the mesh conference in Toronto.

The .CA Impact Awards recognizes youth, educators, not-for-profit and public organizations, small businesses and web developers and designers for their innovation and the impact of their .CA websites and applications. In short, the .CA Impact Awards celebrates Canadian organizations that use the Internet and .CA to achieve their goals.

The Impact Awards are a part of CIRA’s Community Investment Program. While our key function is to run the .CA registry and underlying DNS infrastructure, CIRA also supports the development of the Internet ecosystem both domestically and internationally. The Impact Awards help us to achieve this.

The four 2012 .CA Impact Awards winners represent the very pinnacle of Canadian ingenuity and creativity. This year, the winners include an initiative whose goal is to help Canadians experience the joys of eating together, an animation school, an innovative furniture seller that incorporated a charity into their daily work, and the developers of a mobile application that helps visually impaired people navigate their city.

Please, meet the four .CA Impact Award winners in the following videos:

Jeffrey Blum, In Situ Audio Services (ISAS). ISAS (isas.cim.mcgill.ca) was the winner of the 2012 .CA Impact Award for Applications. ISAS also won the mesh Peoples’ Choice Award.

Video available here: An interview with Jeffrey Blum from ISAS

Sydney Massey, Director of Nutrition Education at BC Dairy, from Better Together BC. Better Together BC (bettertogetherbc.ca) was the winner of the 2012 .CA Impact Award for Public Sector and Not-for-Profit.

Video available here: An interview with Sydney Massey from Better Together BC

Joanna Kakkavas, CEO and President, Condobox. Condobox (condobox.ca) was the winner of the 2012 .CA Impact Award for Small Business.

Video available here: An interview with Joanna Kakkavas from Condobox

Mario Pochat, Director, Vancouver Animation School. The Vancouver Animation School (vanas.ca) was the winner of the 2012 .CA Impact Award for eLearning.

Video available here: An interview with Mario Pochat from the Vancouver Animation School

Please, stay tuned. We’re going to be launching the 2013 .CA Impact Awards later this year. I hope you will enter your .CA website!