Byron Holland is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). View bio
We do important work at CIRA. Our work supports Canada’s piece of the global Internet – the .CA domain space.
The CIRA Board of Directors is responsible for setting the policies and strategies that guide our work in managing that space on behalf of Canadians. That means they help define the heart of the Canadian Internet.
This year, four directors will be elected to the Board, and all .CA Members are eligible to vote.
We’ll be posting the final list of candidates running for the Board of Directors on September 9, and voting will commence on September 16.
Why am I blogging about this now?
Because there are a few steps in the process between now and the voting phase, and .CA Members play a critical role throughout that process. We’ve developed an interactive ‘roadmap’ of our election to help explain the process.
For this year’s election, I am asking you to do two things.
First, if you are a Member, make sure you vote in September. If you are not a Member, you only have until August 26 to become one and be eligible to vote. We recommend you get your membership application in sooner so you can participate in every stage of the election. Membership is free. All you need is a .CA domain name. Stay tuned to this blog – and your email if you are a .CA Member – for updates as the election process progresses.
Second, talk to your family and your colleagues about becoming a Member and voting. As a nation, we are increasingly spending more of our time in the online world, it is more important than ever to make sure that Canada’s digital identity is strong, and that we all participate in building trusted Canadian values online.
You can help by casting your ballot in the CIRA Board of Directors election.
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.
This week marks an important milestone in the ongoing development of the Internet in Canada. At an event attended by dozens of partner organizations and government representatives, a new Internet Exchange Point (IXP) was launched in Montréal.
CIRA’s director of IT, Jacques Latour, represented CIRA at that event, as CIRA worked with a group of partners to establish the Montréal Internet Exchange, also known as QIX.
Réseau d’informations scientifiques du Québec (RISQ), Quebec’s non-profit scientific information network will operate QIX. Other partners included Fibrenoire, Cogeco Data Services, Metro Optic, RISQ, optic.ca, Groupe Teltech Inc., Cologix, and Google to create this IXP.
In June of last year, CIRA made public our work with interested community partners across Canada to facilitate the creation of more IXPs. QIX demonstrates that we are following through on that commitment and in the months to come, we will continue to work with partners in other cities in Canada, including in Winnipeg.
As I’ve explained in the past, creating more IXPs is fundamentally about making Canada’s Internet infrastructure more robust, secure and resilient and reducing the cost of access for all Canadians. This video from European Internet Exchange Association provides the best explanation I’ve seen about how IXPs work.
The benefits of IXPs are not inconsequential. It’s become old news that Canadians pay among the highest rates in the industrialized world for Internet speeds that are comparatively slow. There were only two IXPs in Canada previously. This has resulted in an inferior Internet infrastructure compared to Canada’s international counterparts. The U.S., by comparison, has 85 IXPs, and Sweden, a country of nine million people and an advanced Internet economy, has 12 IXPs.
Consider that the Internet, which today represents about three per cent of Canada’s GDP, is expected to account for as much as seven per cent by 2016. That equates to $75 billion, twice the size of the forestry industry, an industry upon which this country was built. It’s also larger than the tourism industry. It’s a dollar figure that represents high-value jobs in IT and other related industries. This is wealth that is created here in Canada and, to a great degree, remains here in Canada.
But as I said in February at the kick-off event for our 2013 Canadian Internet Forum, it isn’t just about the money. The Internet is the greatest driver of economic and social change the world has ever seen. Fundamentally it has become the great equalizer. It gives voice to the voiceless and creates opportunity for all.
It is for these reasons that we at CIRA consider the continued growth of Canada’s IXP fabric to be essential for the long-term stability and reliability of a domestic Internet; an Internet that is accessible and affordable to all Canadians; an Internet that will fuel our global competitiveness through the 21st century and beyond.
Chehadé called the roundtable to take the temperature of the ccTLD community with regard to the DNS ecosystem and developments in the DNS like gTLDs. In my opinion, it was a productive meeting and a step in the right direction toward building a stronger relationship between ccTLDs and ICANN.
However, in the past week Chehadé has come under fire for this meeting, and I feel a couple of criticisms leveled against Chehadé should be explored a little further.
Chehadé has been criticized for hosting a roundtable with a select group of ccTLD CEOs, and that the attendees represented ccTLDs from the developed world or larger ccTLDs. This simply isn’t true; Frederico Neves from NIC.br (Brazil) was there, as was Richard Wein from NIC.at (Austria, but not one of the largest ccTLDs), and representatives from Singapore and Costa Rica. It is also important to note that African ccTLDs CEOs were invited and indeed accepted Chehadé’s invitation, only to cancel a couple of days before the roundtable.
Let me be clear – I believe that, as the group that comprises the Internet governance world, we need to either ensure our criticisms are valid and based in reality, or put in place a formalized process to ensure we are acting in ways in which we can all agree.
That said, in the multi-stakeholder model, is it wrong to for the head of ICANN to have a conversation with a few selected people? Do we all have to attend? Does the list of attendees have to be in some way representative of the global ccTLD community (whether geographic, size, and so on)? Or is it fine in some situations? For example, if it is not a decision-making meeting? And what if all of the invitees (who meet pre-determined criteria for participation – see previous question) don’t attend? These are important questions.
The fact remains that the president of ICANN needs input from all stakeholders. Sometimes this input , and in gathering this input sometimes it is done formally and at other times in a less formal manner . . . both are acceptable and have their place in the multi-stakeholder model.
The Internet governance ecosystem is no longer the Wild West. Collectively, we govern an entity that has become the greatest driver of social and economic change in centuries. And, as we saw during the World Conference on International Telecommunications in December, the eyes of the world are on us.
Let’s have the discussion about process now, and free up our time for more important discussions. What do you think? I would like to hear your opinions on this issue.
Last Thursday, we hosted the 2013 Canadian Internet Forum (CIF) event in Ottawa.
The CIF is now in its third year, and I’m pleased with how quickly it is becoming one of the key Internet-related events in Canada. This year, nearly 400 people participated in the one-day event, either in-person or via webcast.
We created the CIF in 2009 in an effort to include Internet users in the discussion about how the Internet should develop. After all, the Internet has become such an important part of Canadians’ lives. To this end, we launched an online forum for Canadians to discuss Internet issues that are important to them. Our new forum is integrated with social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook – you can seamlessly comment on the forum using your social media identity, and share your activity on those networks as well.
This forum will be open year-round, and we will regularly report on the discussions, and present the findings to the United Nations-coordinated Internet Governance Forum this fall. You can get involved in the discussions at cif.cira.ca.
While we are working on posting video of the entire day’s proceedings, my update on Internet governance is available on our YouTube channel. In this presentation, I outlined the reasons why I believe it is so important for all Canadians to get involved in Internet governance. I believe we are at the beginnings of a fundamental shift in the way the Internet is governed, and I hope you will join us in preserving the Internet as the free and open entity we can all benefit from.
Earlier this week, Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced the federal government will not proceed with Bill C-30. This bill, also known as the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, would have required Internet service providers to provide law enforcement agencies with access to their customers’ online communications without a warrant.
To say this bill was divisive is an understatement. When I first blogged about C-30 about a year ago, sparks were flying. Numerous civil liberties and rights groups were vocally opposed to the proposed legislation. Even Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, weighed in on the debate, calling on the government to amend the bill to respect Canadians’ privacy rights. Opposition to the bill resulted in it being sent back to committee to be amended, and until yesterday, its future was uncertain.
I was pleased with the Minister’s reasoning for killing C-30. Nicolson cited public opposition to the bill as the reason the government will not proceed with it: “We have listened to the concerns of Canadians who have been very clear on this.”
Last week I blogged about the rising power of the end user in shaping and influencing the development of the Internet. In that post, I said “The people who use the Internet – and there is about 2 billion of them – have a voice.” The death of bill C-30 is just another example of how powerful their voice can be.
As an aside, I’m sure Bill C-30 will be discussed at the Canadian Internet Forum (CIF) in a couple of weeks. The CIF is the place for Canadians to share their thoughts on the development, deployment and governance of the Internet in Canada. In fact, Jennifer Stoddart is this year’s keynote speaker. If you are interested in issues like bill C-30, I encourage you to join us at the CIF on February 28. The event is free, and if you are unable to attend in-person in Ottawa, it will be webcast.
On February 28, CIRA will host an important forum on the future of the Internet in Canada. This is our third CIF, and I’m comfortable in saying it is going to be bigger and better than ever.
Of course, that may have more to do with timing, than our planning skills (but I would say we definitely have a role in it!). The fact is, for an Internet governance geek like me, 2012 was nothing short of incredible:
- The year started off with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the United States, legislation that if passed, could have negatively affected the global Internet. A global public backlash resulted in the Bill getting dropped.
- In Canada, the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, or Bill C-30, drew a lot of attention to legislation and the Internet. Again, the Bill was sent back for revising after intense public pressure.
- ICANN, the organization at the heart of the Internet governance ecosystem, appointed a new CEO, Fadi Chehadé. His vision is to bring all stakeholders to the table for meaningful discussion to ensure that all global citizens can share an open Internet.
- And, in December the World Conference on Information Technology (WCIT-12) and the potential to have the Internet put under the control of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) brought international Internet governance into the mainstream. In part due to international pressure, the majority of democratic nations refused to sign onto the agreement by the end of the conference.
- Let’s also not forget that 2012 was the year the Internet governance world came to Canada. In September we successfully hosted ICANN 45, one of the largest ICANN meetings in history, in Toronto. It was one of the best attended ICANN meetings to date, with incredible participation by Canadians.
These events are both emblematic of the nature of the Internet. With apologies to our friends south of the border, the Internet really for the people and by the people. It is a true bottom up, organic entity. The people who use the Internet – and there is more than a billion of them – have a voice.
These events are also an indication of what’s to come. The days of the decisions about the Internet getting made in closed or isolated rooms without public knowledge or participation are clearly over. The five events above all show the broader Internet community is ready to use its voice to influence the development of the Internet.
And, that’s exactly why we created the CIF. It is the forum for Canadians to discuss and debate the hot topics that help shape the Canadian Internet landscape, be it Internet security, policy, digital literacy, or any other topic. We bring together domestic and international Internet experts to discuss and debate the topics that help shape the Canadian Internet landscape, and engage you, the Canadian Internet user, in that debate.
This year, I am pleased to announce that the CIF will feature a keynote from Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart about privacy on the Internet landscape in Canada. We have also lined up some of the brightest minds in the Internet ecosystem in Canada for a couple of lively panel discussions.
A panel session on policy and governance will feature Steve Anderson from Openmedia.ca, Karen Mulberry from the Internet Society and Tim Denton from the CRTC. Journalist Shane Schick will join Matthew Johnson from MediaSmarts in a discussion about digital literacy. In the afternoon, Bill Woodcock from Packet Clearing House will present on the current issues in Internet security. And, we are planning an interesting interactive activity on cyber-security.
At the CIF, there is no ‘audience’. Just as we are all participants in the Internet sphere, we are all participants at the CIF. Everyone who attends has equal voice. The amount of time we allocate to discussion among the event participants has become a hallmark of the CIF, a fact I am particularly proud of.
Please, join us at the Canadian Internet Forum on February 28. If you are in Ottawa, you can join us in person by registering here. If you aren’t in Ottawa, you can still participate via webcast. Details for the webcast can be found here.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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).
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.