Moving forward with Internet governance reforms

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If you read this blog regularly, or if you’re even tangentially involved in the Internet governance world, you know that 2014 is like no other year in the history of Internet governance. Since the National Telecommunication and Information Administration’s (NTIA) announcement of its intent to transition out of its IANA role, contract, the topic has dominated global Internet governance discourse.

Apart from my day job as the head of the .CA registry, I’m the chair of the Country Code Name Supporting Organization (ccNSO), the entity within the ICANN ecosystem that represents the interests of country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). As you can well imagine, I have been knee deep in the discussions around the transition of the accountability function the NTIA has played to this point for the IANA function.

To oversee this process, ICANN has proposed a 27 member Coordinating Group. This group is to be comprised of representatives from IANA’s customers, like ccTLDs and gTLDs, and other key stakeholders. Four of those 27 seats have been allocated by ICANN to ccTLDs, like .CA.

It’s important to note that ICANN asked the ccNSO to select four ccTLDs, not ccNSO members, to join the Coordinating Group. To facilitate this level of inclusiveness, the ccNSO went to great lengths to ensure that the call for applications was sent well beyond our community – through emails to every ccTLD in the IANA database, and by working with the Regional Organizations (ROs) to communicate with their members.

Let me note that I believe the process to choose the community representatives is critical, and not only because we need to ensure the best possible representation on this important group. Trust in the process is a crucial component to ensuring acceptance of the outcomes. We need to get the process right if we are to be successful in our work.

The ccNSO established a five member selection committee at the recent ICANN meeting in London and set out the criteria we felt that would enable the representatives to effectively represent the global ccTLD community. I was a member of that Selection Committee, along with four other selected individuals, including ccNSO members, an RO-appointed member, and one non-ccNSO member.

The communications regarding the call for nominations to this committee included the broadest outreach possible. We worked in many languages, and sent emails to every ccTLD in the IANA database. By working with the ROs in our outreach, we were able to expand our reach to every corner of the globe. Every effort was made to make the communications as inclusive as possible, and I think the ccNSO Secretariat did an excellent job in this regard.

We received about a dozen applications, and we were pleased that all of the nominees met the selection criteria and had the skill level and expertise to effectively represent the ccTLD community. We were faced with a very difficult task – balancing a wide variety of criteria to ensure effective representation of the diverse ccTLD community – 248 total worldwide. Among the considerations:

  • High-level skills and expertise: the importance of the Coordinating Group cannot be underestimated, and to make sure ccTLDs receive the best possible representation on that group, we had set minimum standards of skills and expertise for nominees.
  • Time: we also had to ensure that the nominees had sufficient time to devote to this process, and that they had the support of their host organization to do so.
  • Diversity of the ccTLD community: ccTLDs organize themselves in many different ways. Most (151, or 60 per cent) are members of the ccNSO. Those 151 represent 70 per cent of all registered ccTLD domain names. Others are members of their respective ROs, and some are members of both the ccNSO and an RO. Others are non-aligned, choosing to not organize with any group(s) whatsoever. All of these groupings were considered in order to ensure the broadest possible reach among the nominees.
  • Geographic diversity: ICANN has five defined regions: Africa (AF), Asia/Australia/Pacific (AP), Europe (EU), Latin America/Caribbean (LAC), and North America (NA). From the Selection Committee’s report: “The Committee members agreed that building on and in addition to the quality of the nominees on the shortlist, the geographic region of the nominee should be considered, also in the context of the composition of the full coordination group.  Based on this consideration the committee agreed that out of the four ccTLD members on the Coordination Group, no more than two should be from the same Geographic region.” With only four seats on the Coordinating Group, it was clear from the outset that true geographic representation was not going to be possible. Furthermore, to ensure no one region would dominate the ccTLD representatives, the Selection Committee set a limit of no more than two nominees per region.”
  • Registry size: ccTLDs range in size from a few thousand domain names under management to a few with tens of millions under management.
  • Governance structure: some ccTLDs, like .CA, are member-based and/or not-for-profits. Others are government departments, and some are privately held
  • Business models: while some ccTLDs are not-for-profits and generate income only to reinvest it in their host nation’s Internet community, others are run as for-profit business. There are a number of ccTLDs that are subsidized by other entities, such as governments.

Given the criteria we had to balance, there were no ‘reserved’ seats for any one group. The fact is four seats only allowed us to ensure some – not all – of the criteria were met. The discussion was difficult and the outcome was not unanimous. We did, however, reach consensus.  In paring this list down to the final four, we balanced the selection criteria – balance being the keyword here. Geographic diversity is a good example of this – while there are five ICANN-defined geographic regions, we only had four seats on the Coordination Committee. Therefore, we knew from the outset not every objective would be fully realized. The goal was to balance all of the criteria and produce a slate of nominees that would best b representative of the key interests of global ccTLD managers and operators. I am confident we have done that.

There were many good candidates among the applicants, and making a final decision meant a long and challenging discussion. In the end, we put forward four names for which we reach agreed consensus – but not unanimity:

  • Martin Boyle, .UK, European Union region
  • Keith Davidson, .NZ, Asia Pacific region
  • Xiaodong Lee, .CN. Asia Pacific region
  • Mary Uduma, .NG, Africa Region

Did we meet the all of the criteria set out at the beginning of the process? No, but given the constraints we were facing – four seats to represent a community as large and diverse as ccTLDs – I have no hesitation in endorsing each of them for their ability to be representative of the global ccTLD community – both ccNSO members and non-members – effectively.

Opinions in the ccTLD community can be as diverse as the ccTLDs themselves. But, at the end of the day, we are all ccTLD managers and operators who have a common interest in an excellent, high-performing and accountable IANA function.

We made our best efforts to be as inclusive as possible. That spirit of inclusiveness will extend to the consultations and discussions in the broader ccTLD community as this process moves forward with specific transition proposals. We are at the high water mark of the current Internet governance ecosystem.

The work we are doing today will affect the ways in which the Internet develops in the future. We need to get the process right, and we need to ensure that we are adhering to what are very important deadlines. With these four nominees, we are headed in the right direction.


The essential ingredient of politics is timing

The transition of the IANA contract oversight is, of course, the topic du jour at ICANN 50 in London. From the sessions to the hallway banter, it’s the hottest topic I can recall in ICANN’s history.

It’s an inherently over-the-top political topic, merging partisan politics in Washington with Internet governance. On numerous occasions in Singapore, Larry Strickling raised the domestic politicking on the part of the Republican Party regarding the IANA oversight transition, cautioning us of the discourse fuelled by opportunism.

He was right.

We now have two Republican-backed amendments that have passed the House of Representatives that are intended to delay, if not block, the transition of the IANA contract oversight. Phillip Corwin has published some excellent posts on CircleID on the topic, detailing the amendments and how they can impact our process.

Are the amendments simply political posturing? Or do they represent the true feelings of the Republican Party? If they do, there is a risk as we are heading into mid-term elections this Fall. The Republicans have the opportunity to control both the House of Representatives and the Senate, effectively cutting President Obama off at the knees.

Regardless, it’s good politics on the part of the Republicans. We’ve all seen the headlines – Obama is giving the Internet over to either communists or terrorist or some combination of the two. The IANA transfer has basically allowed the Republicans to stick a political fork in Obama’s eye, and they are all too happy to do as much damage as they can in the process.

No big deal, right? After all, both Larry Strickling and Fadi Chehade have characterized the September 2015 date as a goal and not a deadline. It’s more important that we do it right, they say, than to do it quickly. It is possible to extend the contract, if necessary, to make sure the outcome will meet all of NTIA’s criteria and to encompass the reviews necessary to alleviate the concerns of the Republicans.

While I agree with the sentiment (of course it needs to be done right), I’m not convinced it is helpful to characterize the date in such a manner. Though I’m not hearing much in London about the amendments, I think they are something we ignore at our own peril.

Geographic proximity and personal interest have made me an observer of American politics, and I can tell you I can see a few things that may affect our process.

First over the next year the Democrats in Washington may effectively be frozen. If the Republicans take over both houses, Obama will be a lame duck president of the highest order, making it incredibly difficult to push the IANA transition through in political ecosystem.

Second, history shows us that key staff exits Capitol Hill in the final year of a president’s term, knowing that the next regime will bring in their own staff. (To be perfectly clear, this is a general political observation – I have no personal insight whatsoever into the future of any senior officials in the U.S.)

This could very well mean that the architects and supporters who are in positions of influence could likely be long gone before the end of Obama’s presidency in 2016, leaving the IANA transition without a champion in any influential positions.

The upshot of this is clear in my thinking – if the Democrats are stripped of power, the likelihood of seeing the IANA oversight transition become a reality if we miss the September 2015 date is significantly reduced. And, without champions in influential positions on the Hill, it’s far less likely that the process will be taken up under a new regime in 2016. Who would want to reinvigorate a failed process and all of the political risks that go with it?

Pierre Trudeau, a former Canadian prime minister, once said “The essential ingredient of politics is timing.” We should heed his advice. In part, we are playing a political game with the IANA contract, and the stakes are high. Let’s consider the September 2015 date as a deadline. We now have external pressures, such as the Republican’s delay tactics, to deal with.

As the global community who are committed to seeing the Internet succeed (and the transition of the IANA contract and the USG oversight role is something most of us agree is a big step in the right direction), let’s work together to ensure we meet that deadline.


NETmundial and the IGF: putting your money where your mouth is

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The Internet is not new. It has existed, in one form or another, since the 1960s. Since that time, it has been primarily the domain of the engineers and the other technology-minded individuals that built it.

The organizations that were put in place to govern it predate the huge growth in end users the Internet experienced in the 2000s. These organizations were set up by the technology community to deal with technological issues. They are able, in structure and capacity, to deal with technological issues.

The issues facing the Internet in 2014, however, are very different from those in 1998. Issues of cyber-crime, online surveillance, copyright and trademark protection, and so on, are issues of public policy, not governance. Even IPv6 and DNSSEC have primarily moved from the technology sphere to the policy sphere with their current challenge of adoption and implementation.

Fundamentally, the Internet governance ecosystem has moved from discussions of ‘how it works’ to ‘how it’s used’, and structures like ICANN do not have the capacity, or mandate, to deal with these issues. However, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), created in 2006, is an annual multi-stakeholder forum for discussing Internet policy issues. While it has no binding outcomes, it is widely regarded as an important part of the Internet ecosystem.

It’s no secret that the IGF has struggled with a lack of funding  for a number of years. I firmly believe that if we don’t step up and provide financial support to IGF today, we will have an important missed opportunity.

That’s why at the recent NETmundial meeting in Brazil, CIRA joined a group of ccTLDs to financially support the IGF. Together, we committed a minimum of $100,000 per year for several years. Participating registries include .AU (Australia), .DK (Denmark), .CN (China), .NL (Netherlands), .UK (United Kingdom), .BR (Brazil) and .MX (Mexico). I expect other ccTLDs to join us soon.

The IGF provides the ideal venue to discuss issues of how the Internet is used – public policy issues – in an open, multi-stakeholder and inviting forum. It provides an arena for discussions that have no other place. Because it is a United Nations-coordinated entity, it is approachable for newcomers to the governance ecosystem – the developing world, those two billion people we are about to bring online.

Let’s face it, fora like ICANN are easy for those of us on the inside. Our organizations, primarily based in the developed world, have been participants since the early days of the public Internet. However, what is easy for us may not be as inviting, or comfortable, for those who are not coming to the table with the same political and philosophical groundings – the governments and other representative bodies from the developing world. We need recognize the fact that the decisions we make today about the structures that govern the Internet need to work for both the newcomers and those of us who have been on the inside of Internet for many years.

The IGF bridges this gap.

The group of ccTLDs CIRA has joined believe the IGF is a critical entity in the Internet governance ecosystem. We are prepared to demonstrate our commitment to it with financial support. I’d like to call on other organizations that have benefitted from the IGF, and from the free and open Internet, to join us in our support.

Governments, the private sector and others have reaped the benefits of the work of the IGF, and now it’s time to give something back. I was pleasantly surprised at the level of support expressed for the IGF at NETmundial. The draft outcome document from NETmundial even calls for a strengthened IGF, including, “ensuring guaranteed stable and predictable funding for the IGF is essential.”

If your organization expressed support for the IGF at NETmundial, or has benefitted from fora like the IGF, I call on you to put their ‘money where their mouth is’. Join us by providing multi-year financial support for this important entity.


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.