I can see the Root Zone from my house

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You know an issue has political traction when Sarah Palin wades in on it. So I guess the IANA transition from U.S. government oversight is the issue du jour in the U.S., as this ever so eloquent statement was picked up by Fox News:

“Surrendering our control of the Internet is a colossal foreign policy error with long term negative repercussions for freedom.”

It’s an incredible quote, especially when you recall Ms. Palin’s wonderfully intellectual grasp on American foreign policy. She can see Russia from her house, after all (thank you, Tina Fey).

I use her words to illustrate one of the toughest challenges we face as the Internet governance community. While she can grab headlines with categorically false, inflammatory and self-serving statements, the truth is far too complex for the rest of us to boil down to a 15 second sound bite. I invite you to briefly yet effectively explain what the globalization of the IANA function means in accessible language.

Unfortunately, Ms. Palin is not alone in her politicking with IANA. A quick search found a lot of misleading and/or ill-informed articles about ICANN and IANA. Here’s a few of my favourites (certainly NOT an exhaustive list):

  • The Future of Your Website Depends on This: Your business could be the biggest loser when the U.S. gives up control of the Internet next year, from Inc.
  • US transfer of Internet control years in the making, fueled by foreign pressure, from Fox News.
  • US government surrenders control of ICANN, from Fox News.
  • How to Save the Internet: Congress can override the president’s decision to hand over control of Web addresses and domains to an international body, from the Wall Street Journal.
  • GOP warns Obama plan could give China or Russia control of Internet, from the Washington Times.

I didn’t include hyperlinks to these articles because I’d rather not be a source of traffic – and therefore revenue – for these ‘media outlets’. You’ll notice the list is entirely comprised of American media. When I searched for Canadian articles about IANA, all that was returned was ‘tumbleweeds and crickets’, so to speak. Apparently the survival of the free and open Internet is not an issue for Canadians. Honestly, I’m not sure which is worse – misinformation or no information at all.

If you believe what these ‘journalists’ are trying to tell you, as an American your web presence will be controlled by “foreigners” only interested in destroying the U.S.’s global standing once the IANA contract expires. The American Internet, and along with it free speech and democracy, has been sold out to foreign interests (China, Russia, and any number of other ne’er-do-wells) by a weak president who is bowing to pressure from foreign governments. There is no evidence whatsoever to support any of this. Based in extreme partisanship, it is in my opinion the epitome of what Stephen Colbert calls ‘truthiness’.

I didn’t take these headlines from fringe blogs. These are from the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times and Fox News, among others. And regardless of your opinion of the Fox News style of journalism, it represents a source of information (I hesitate to say news) for many, many people around the globe.

This isn’t new, nor am I saying anything we don’t already know. In his presentation to the ccNSO on Tuesday, Larry Strickling highlighted the politicization of the IANA contract by certain elements in the U.S. Let’s face facts – Sarah Palin knows as much about managing the Internet’s naming and numbering system as she does about nuclear physics. Her interest in this issue is strictly motivated by personal political gain.

All of this is not to say that there are not some good and informative articles out there. See Jonathan Zittrain’s excellent article here and this parsing of Fox News’ coverage of Bill Clinton’s statements on the subject here. However, these media outlets and blogs are on the outside of the mainstream – they are a little more academic and a little deeper in their analysis. So while there is good information out there, it is not entirely accessible to the average media consumer. Rather, it is likely skeptically viewed as left leaning and biased opinion created by out-of-touch, monocle-wearing intellectuals.

I believe journalists, American, Canadian and all others need to up their game in reporting Internet governance issues. This stuff isn’t the domain (no pun intended) of a core group of Internet geeks and wonks anymore. The issues do have a direct impact on the lives of billions of the world’s citizens. Freedom of speech and much of the global economy rely on the free and open nature of the Internet, something that has increasingly come under threat. By minimizing these important issues as little more than a partisan battle does the citizens of the world an incredible disservice.

To borrow a word from Ms. Palin, don’t misunderestimate the power of the press to influence these discussions.


Guest post by Deborah Rosati, the Chair of CIRA’s Nomination Committee

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I first got involved with CIRA back in 2005 when I ran for election to its Board of Directors. The organization needed to add business leadership and diversity of thought and with my financial, operational and entrepreneurial high-tech background, I felt I had something to offer.

In those ‘early’ days, the Board was dealing with many important issues, from evolving the governance policies and processes to setting the strategic direction to changing leadership for growth. It really was a pivotal time in the development of the organization. So when in 2006, I had the opportunity to take on a leadership role with CIRA as Chair, I was pleased to do so.

Once my term was over in 2008, I took a break from CIRA’s governance for a couple of years feeling confident that I had made a difference for Canada’s Internet community.

In 2010 I decided to get involved again. The organization was in a very different place in its evolution and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I watched it grow from a start up to a national and international thought leader. From their dialogue with Canadians at the Canadian Internet Forum to the recently launched Community Investment Program and its work in establishing Internet Exchange Points, CIRA is doing some of the most innovative and important work to advance the Internet in Canada. It is a source of pride for Canadians.

Since I don’t have the time to commit to CIRA’s Board of Directors (I already have seats on a couple of boards of national Canadian organizations) I chose to join its Nomination Committee, or NomCom as we call it.

The NomCom is an interesting and important entity. CIRA has come under fire in the past for having a complex governance structure. It has a two-tiered election process with separate slates of candidates all voted on by a member base.

However, this complexity serves to ensure the best possible representation on the Board as possible. An organization like CIRA is unique. Its work is high-tech, but it is also deeply involved in the Internet policy world. It is also one of the rare organizations whose work touches the lives of almost every Canadian, either directly or indirectly.

Ensuring the interests of those stakeholders are represented is no easy task. Making sure they are represented while also ensuring the organization has the skills and knowledge it needs to develop and grow is even tougher. That’s the role of the NomCom. It is the entity that helps to build a Board of Directors that represents a wide range of views and interests. By playing this critical role, the NomCom contributes to the strategic direction of .CA and Canadian Internet policy.

As a member of the NomCom, we solicit and select qualified Candidates for the Nomination Committee Slate of CIRA’s Board of Directors Election. I’m now in my second term on the NomCom and have been the Chair of the committee since 2013.

I’m proud to say that I’ve been associated with CIRA for almost a decade now. It’s an experience I would recommend to anyone who has the skills and the desire to make a difference for Canada’s Internet community.

The opportunity to have some unique and amazing experiences is second to none, and you get to work with a diverse group of committed professionals from across the country.

In the coming months, CIRA will be issuing calls for both Board members and NomCom members. Please take the time to consider them. If you decide to put your name forward, great. If not, think about your friends and colleagues – would they, and the Canadian Internet community at large, benefit? Then please approach them. Together, we can build a better Internet for all Canadians.


The U.S. government will not renew the IANA contract

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Last evening the government of the United States made an announcement that sent shockwaves through the Internet governance world. The National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), a division of the Department of Commerce, publicly stated that it will not be renewing its contract with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) past its September 2015 expiry date.

The importance of this announcement cannot be underestimated.

The Internet is, for the most part, a product of U.S. interests, including the Department of Defense and the Department of Commerce. As a result, key Internet technical infrastructure has been operating under contract administered by the NTIA. Core to these operations are the functions IANA plays – the coordination of the DNS Root and Internet Protocol addressing. As you can imagine, among the entities that comprise the Internet governance ecosystem and certain states around the world, there are many that are opposed to U.S. government interests so close to the Internet’s operations.

Interestingly this announcement, however big it is, should not be seen as entirely unexpected.

I’ve blogged before about the current governance model in place to manage the Internet. Commonly called the multi-stakeholder model, it is a bottom-up, consensus-based model that includes an organic mix of public and private entities at the regional, national and international levels – those entities that have a stake in the success of the Internet. This complex network of inter-related and inter-connected bodies that comprise the Internet governance world is analogous to a natural ecosystem. And like a natural ecosystem, the current governance structures and processes grew organically, beginning in the 1960s when the Internet was entirely under the control of the United States government.

Like a natural ecosystem, the organisms that comprise the greater governance entity exist in a delicate balance. As it is continuously evolving, the entities involved in the governance of the Internet also need to evolve. The fact is many organizations have ceased to exist or were reorganized as a result of the changing needs of the Internet ecosystem. Who remembers the International Network Working Group or the Federal Networking Council?

I should also note that it has always been the intent of the government to transfer management of these functions to ICANN. Central to this commitment was the transitioning of the so-called ‘IANA functions’.

I believe we are witnessing another evolutionary step in the development of the Internet with today’s announcement. Momentum to reform the current Internet governance structures and systems has been gaining steam for a number of years. However, much of the current discourse on Internet governance focuses on the linkage between ICANN, IANA and the U.S. government. The U.S. government backing away from that accountability role removes a considerable barrier in those discussions.

We are, however, left with an accountability vacuum. Whether or not you agreed with the role of the U.S. government, the fact is they did play an important – if only very limited in recent years – role in ensuring IANA was doing the work it was tasked with. With the removal of the U.S. government as that accountability body, mechanisms or structures will likely need to be put in place in order to assume that role. That said, I’m confident any number of solutions will be proposed over the coming months, and that we are on the cusp of settling a number of the outstanding issues that have dogged the Internet governance world for years.

 


Update on our work on Internet Exchange Points

It’s been a little more than a year since we launched our Internet Exchange Point (IXP) initiative at CIRA, and we’ve made significant progress in that time.

A couple of weeks ago, the community celebrated the launch of Canada’s newest Internet Exchange Point, the Manitoba Internet Exchange (MBIX), in Winnipeg. In April the Montreal Internet Exchange (QIX) was launched in Montreal. These IXPs, along with TorIX in Toronto, OttIX in Ottawa, and BCNet in Vancouver are part of an evolving Canadian Internet infrastructure that is higher performing, more secure, resilient, and affordable. And, there are some productive discussions among the Internet community in Calgary about establishing an IXP in that city.

Through our research (.PDF) and our work with communities both global and domestic, we’ve learned a few things about what makes an IXP successful, and what doesn’t. Most importantly, I think, is the fact that there is no ‘one size fits all model’. Rather, while there key ingredients common in successful IXPs, each one takes on a local flavour.

What I have found to be critical is what I call ‘good governance’ – being open to understanding the local Internet community’s needs and being able to evolve as that community changes. It’s about operating the IXP in a transparent and responsive manner. We have also found that most often the IXs that work are not-for-profits and operate for the benefit of the local Internet community. They are located in facilities that are open for any organizations to peer with, and have the capacity to grow to meet local needs. They are also open to input and support from the broader community.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

QIX, the ‘new’ IXP in Montreal, came out of an already existing one managed by the Réseau d’informations scientifiques du Québec (RISQ), an arm of the Quebec provincial government. It was not open for any organizations to peer with, and was managed by RISQ. Once the need for an open IXP became apparent in Montreal, RISQ worked with the local community to enhance and open QIX, and establish a new governance structure. RISQ still manages the day-to-day operations of QIX, but this not-for-profit is now governed by an independent board of directors.

In contrast, MBIX was started from nothing more than an idea and a committed group of volunteers. Everything – from the technical infrastructure to the governance structure – had to be built from scratch.  The result is an open, not-for-profit IXP conceived of and built by the local community and run by a group of volunteers.

These two IXPs had very different beginnings and their current governance and operations have differences as well. However, they do have those ‘key ingredients’ I mentioned above in common: they are open and responsive to their local community, they are not-for-profit and are both located in a facility that is accessible and that can allow for growth.

When we started this initiative, our interest in establishing IXPs in Canada was driven by their key benefits: to improve the performance of the Internet in Canada through improved security, speed of data and network resilience. While we were also aware that IXPs can reduce the chance that national Internet traffic will travel to the U.S. Since then, the topic of IXPs has gotten a lot of traction in Canada. In light of the revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) was monitoring Internet traffic crossing the U.S. border, the topic of IXPs has garnered significant media attention.

That discussion continues on Canadian Internet Forum, a national discussion on Internet-related issues hosted by CIRA.

I want to make two points clear. First, Internet traffic from all nations around the world destined for, or transiting, the U.S. can be subject to surveillance activity there. However, due to our geography and the configuration of North American networks, a large proportion – some say up to 40 per cent of Canadian domestic traffic that is traffic originating and terminating in Canada – transits the U.S., and is therefore affected by the NSA’s activities. This makes our IXP initiative more important than ever.

Second, while IXPs can reduce the chance that Canadian Internet traffic will flow to the U.S., that risk can NOT be eliminated. That’s not the way the Internet works. The Internet operates on the premise that bits of data travel through the fastest and most available route, regardless of national borders. Building more IXPs in Canada will build capacity, speed and resiliency in this country, creating opportunities for Canadian data to remain in this country. There is no way, however, to prevent all data to remain entirely in this country.

We have made significant progress and have continued to advance our understanding about establishing successful IXPs. I believe it is a good time to pause, reflect and celebrate our achievements. As a nation, we do have a long way to go before we can put Canada on the map as a digital leader with a robust network of Internet exchange points across the country. In the meantime, please find out more about your local IXP, or if your community doesn’t have one yet, get involved – contact us to help establish one!


International Girls in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Day

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Today is International Girls in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Day, a day set aside to encourage girls and women to consider careers in ‘tech’. It’s no surprise that women are under-represented in the ICT sector. Many theories have been put forward as to why.

In Canada, about 25 per cent of the ICT workforce are women. This number hasn’t changed much in the past decade, which means we have a lot of work to do.

In terms of overall numbers, CIRA appears to be doing well with regard to employing women. Currently, 40 per cent of our staff is female. However, that number declines to 28 per cent when we just count our Development and Operations Teams.

Personally, I’d like to see that number much higher.

To learn more about what it’s like working in ICT for women, I spoke with a couple of CIRA’s female employees. Below is what they told me, in their own words. Please share these stories with young women that you think can benefit from reading them.

Anne-Marie Walton, Application Developer

Why did you choose a career in technology?

I never thought I would have a career in IT. I wasn’t exposed to computers very much when I was young so I was scared of using computers.

I first discovered IT in university. I wasn’t happy with my major, which was geology, and a friend suggested I try a few courses in computer science. I tried a few courses and loved them so much that I decided to switch my major to computer science. I’m so happy I did!

What is it like working in a male dominated field?

Sometimes it’s challenging. Some people are not very accepting of women in this field. On the other hand, there are some people who are fantastically happy to see women represented in the field. You just learn to be tolerant of people who haven’t entered the current century and try not to take anything too personally.

Any advice for young women who might be considering a career in technology?

If you love working in the IT environment, don’t let the fact that it is a male dominated field stop you from pursuing it.

Why do you love working in IT?

I love the fact that it’s constantly changing. There are always new problems to solve. It’s challenging and interesting.

 

Irena Zamboni, Quality Assurance Specialist

Why did you choose a career in technology?

I did a survey in high school about what areas you are good at.  It came back as math, science and business.

Engineering was one of those fields that I knew would open doors. It never dawned on me that software was a career.

I did an undergrad in electrical engineering and a Masters in biomedical engineering. During this time, I had a job doing software testing. I really enjoyed troubleshooting software.

You use a lot of critical thinking. No one day of the job is the same. I’m pretty social, and being that it’s a job that works with a lot of other departments in an organization, I really enjoyed that.

Did you have any role models that inspired you to enter the field?

My dad is a mechanical engineer and my mom is a teacher. I was big into Legos, so I think my parents noticed that side of me and encouraged it. I was also inquisitive and I like to use my hands.

In high school, I took a tech class and killed it. I was the only girl in the class and I got the highest mark. The guys were upset.

I didn’t know if I wanted to go into IT at the time, but I took that class to see what the field was about and what the options were.

What is it like working in a male dominated field?

I personally love it. I find guys easy to get along with.

I’m a bit of a tomboy. It never felt odd to be surrounded by more men than women.

I think the biggest thing is to see yourself outside of your gender. My parents never talked about engineering as male dominated, or nursing as female dominated. I just saw (myself in field) as part of the norm.

Any advice for young women who might be considering a career in technology?

Take everything that is available to you and at least try it. Don’t make up your mind about something without trying it. Don’t be afraid of making a change. Don’t do something that makes others happy. Do something that makes you happy.


Guest post (Jacques Latour): DNSSEC update

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Jacques Latour, CIRA’s Director, Information Technology, updates CIRA’s progress on DNSSEC in this post.

This week, we reached a major milestone in implementing DNSSEC in .CA. On January 21, CIRA published a signed .CA zone file. We have also submitted the .CA DS record to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).

DNSSEC is an important set of extensions that provide an extra layer of security to the domain name system (DNS). It’s implementation is critical to ensure the continued safety and security of .CA. 

We wanted to create a comprehensive DNSSEC validation process, so we took a different approach to sign .CA that takes into account several known DNSSEC-related issues that affect its operation. Our approach addresses these issues, and we believe we have developed a resilient solution that will result in high availability/no outages.

We created dual independent signing engines using Bind and OpenDNSSEC. There were a few challenges along the way. For example, Bind and OpenDNSSEC produce different, although valid signed zone files and both handle signing differently. These challenges, though, were worth overcoming. The end product will not only be an improved system for .CA, but we’re blazing a new trail here – the global Internet community will benefit from this work. 

This milestone is the result of almost a year’s work, starting with the release of our DNSSEC Practice Statement for comment in February 2012. This document provides an operational outline of how we plan to develop, maintain and manage DNSSEC deployment for .CA. In September 2012, we held a key signing ceremony at our Ottawa office. At this ceremony, the cryptographic digital key that is used to secure the .CA zone was generated.

These steps provided the foundation for the next phase of our work, the publishing of the .CA zone file, which was completed this week. The next phase of CIRA’s work in implementing DNSSEC is to make the necessary upgrades to ready the registry system for transacting DNSSEC-enabled .CA domain names. We expect this work to be complete in 2014. Once complete, CIRA will be able to register DNSSEC-enabled .CA domain names. Our next steps also include working with the Canadian Internet community to get them onside to implement DNSSEC in their systems.

Once we have fully implemented DNSSEC, we will have reached a major milestone in ensuring .CA is among the safest top-level domains in the world.

Should you have questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact cira-dnssec@cira.ca.

 


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.

 


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.