Response to the Community on .CAT Issues

Last week I published a statement about Internet blocking measures in Catalonia, Spain.

The situation in Catalonia is delicate and politically sensitive. Understandably, my statement prompted some strong reactions from the Internet community.

In light of this, we feel it is important to clarify what we set out to do in the statement.

The statement was not drafted as a comment on the current political debate and it was not intended to be read in this way. There are many other stakeholders who are much better positioned than the Internet Society to deal with and comment on these political aspects.

Rather, we wanted to highlight the potential consequences for the Internet that stem from the court order requiring .CAT to monitor content and use the DNS (domain name system) to block that content. In this instance, the content in question related to the 1st October referendum.

We firmly believe that intermediaries (in this case the top-level domain (TLD) operator, but it could be any other intermediary such as an Internet Service Provider (ISP)) should not be put in the position of having to decide what content is legal and what is not. Simply put, this is not the role of TLD registries.

Not only does this kind of measure demonstrate a misunderstanding of how the functional layer of the Internet works, it may also negatively affect the Internet’s open nature. It is important that we focus on the appropriate role that each player in the Internet’s ecosystem must play.

We have had a conversation with the leaders of all four Internet Society chapters in Spain and our position has been clarified.

We all remain committed to working together for the future development of an Internet that is open, global and secure and that continues to benefit everyone.

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Every Connection Matters – Shape Tomorrow and Help Close Digital Divides

We are currently living a special moment in time, a sort of paradox.

Today, almost half of the world’s population already has Internet access. This figure is much higher than anything we could have anticipated 10 years ago, an achievement we should be happily celebrating.

But a recent report by the Internet Society, Paths To Our Digital Future, shows there are no guarantees when it comes to the Internet’s future.  To achieve a digital future where people come first will require new thinking, new approaches, and new tools for this rapidly changing world around us.

And with this we find ourselves facing an even greater challenge. This is no longer the Internet of 10% of the world’s population. It is the Internet of 50% of the people around the world; in some countries, Internet penetration is now close to 100%.

The Internet has become essential, and the opportunity gap between those who are connected and those who are not grows each day. We cannot afford to remain indifferent to this Internet revolution.

If we don’t connect the remaining 50%, this gap could have long-term consequences for the opportunities that present themselves later in life.

After the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, discussions on the digital divide have become more concrete and have gained greater visibility. We are no longer talking just about connecting people, but about how we use the Internet and ICTs to achieve development goals in education, health care, employment, gender equality, and other areas.

If we do not make further progress in Internet development, we will not make progress in bringing benefits such as universal education and access to health care services. We will not make progress towards achieving the SDGs, which will affect the ability for people to improve their quality of life. In the end, it’s all about people and people should be at the heart of our work.

Next week, the Internet Society will be participating at the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC). Government, private sector, and civil society representatives from around the world will meet for this significant international conference organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is where critical work must happen. Policy and decision makers will meet from around the world to make decisions about the future of things like Internet access.

It is critical that the world send a clear message that we need a digital future where humanity is at the hear of the Internet. And for that to happen will require new thinking, new approaches, and new tools for this rapidly changing world around us.

An example of this can be seen in something known in the Internet world as “Community Networking.” Community Networks are typically built so some of the words hardest-to-reach places can connect. Many of them are, in a way, “homemade.” In fact, one of their most exciting commonalities is they can be built by anyone, regardless of technical background

Community Networks are a clear example of what we need more of. We need world leaders to stand behind them and support policies that can make them happen. Especially when we participate along with governments that can help scale activities and make changes to old policies – changes that innovate to enable infrastructure development.

Countries that don’t design and implement concrete strategies for Internet development and Internet-based development may not be able to fully achieve their sustainable development goals, seriously compromising their future.

This is a great opportunity for governments, an opportunity that should not be wasted. An opportunity for sharing experiences, for setting aggressive goals – the time for modest goals is long gone – and for making sure that legal, regulatory and political frameworks will be catalysts and enablers of development, not obstacles hindering its progress.

It’s time to move forward. Together we can tell policies and decision makers it’s time to #ShapeTomorrow and give the world the tools it needs to achieve the SDGs.

Let’s take action for a connected world.

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Internet Society

Connecting Indigenous Communities

Internet access is often a challenge associated with developing countries. But while many of us in North America have the privilege of access at our fingertips, it’s still a huge barrier to success for many rural and remote Indigenous communities in Canada and the United States.

According to the 2016 Broadband Progress Report, 10% of Americans lack access to broadband. The contrast is even more striking when you look at Internet access in rural areas, with 39% lacking access to broadband of 25/4Mbps, compared to 4% in urban areas.

Many Canadian rural and remote communities face similar access issues. In December 2016, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) set targets for Internet service providers (ISPs) to offer customers in all parts of the country broadband at 50/10Mbps with the option of unlimited data. CRTC estimates two million households, or roughly 18% of Canadians, don’t have access to those speeds or data.

Let those figures sink in for a minute. Today in 2017, millions of people in North America still don’t have access to broadband Internet.

It’s an even harder to pill to swallow when you realize how disproportionately and gravely it affects indigenous communities, many of which are in rural and remote locations across North America. Internet access in these communities is increasingly a lifeline to health, education, and economic development. For many, it is a vital link to the world and means the difference between being remote and isolated.

When we think of the future of the Internet, surely we can’t move forward in a meaningful way if millions are left behind.

The challenge? It’s a huge infrastructure investment.

North Americans already pay among the most in the world for broadband access, and it’s nowhere near the fastest. According to FCC, half of American homes have only two options for Internet service providers for basic broadband. For faster speeds, a majority of households have only one choice. Several cities have chosen to create their own municipal broadband services to compete with larger providers.

Rural markets, however, face a bigger challenge with massive entry costs for ISPs due to low population densities. Companies often have to lay their own fibre or cable to provide Internet access.

In the Canadian North, delivering high-speed services to remote indigenous communities that span a vast geographical expanse is extremely expensive and difficult. Residents pay high costs for slow speeds that often make just opening an email attachment painfully difficult. I’m reminded of a Facebook post from a friend who lives in Nunavut: “When your internet is so slow you search for a phone number but have time to find a phone book and get the number before Google produces a result.”

As we grow increasingly dependant on the Internet for services that are vital to a sustainable community, it’s more important than ever to make sure everyone can get up to speed. The Internet Society is committed to an Internet for everyone, everywhere. We envision a world where everyone can access and help develop a connected, borderless, limitless Internet that creates opportunity and progress for all. That’s why we’re taking on one of our most important efforts yet to make sure to Internet is inclusive to everyone in North America.

The Indigenous Connectivity Summit (ICS) on November 8 to 9, 2017 in Santa Fe, New Mexico will be a unique event focused on connecting Indigenous communities to the Internet. In a two-day series of panels and presentations, we’ll help find solutions to ensure Alaska Native, American Indian, Inuit, First Nation, and Métis communities have affordable, high-quality, and sustainable Internet access. Pre-summit education days will provide an opportunity for indigenous community members to share and learn about deploying sustainable community networks and navigating the complex policy environments in Canada and the U.S.

We’re not starting from scratch. There are many incredible success stories of indigenous community networks in North America and around the world. The ICS will showcase these innovators to inspire strategies and solutions to help get all communities up to speed.

Just as it took many efforts to shape the Internet into what it is today, it will take a community effort to make sure it works for everyone. We know there are many people with ideas about how to connect Indigenous communities, and many more who can help can bring these solutions to fruition.

That’s what we hope to achieve at the Indigenous Connectivity Summit. We’re gathering over 200 community network managers/operators, indigenous-owned Internet service providers, community members, researchers, policy makers, and indigenous leadership to discuss what Internet access means to communities and how to make it work for everyone.

Thanks to the open access, permission-free environment afforded to us by the Internet, we’ve already proved we can accomplish great things when we work together. It’s time to step up our efforts. Otherwise, many Indigenous communities will get stuck in a continuous game of catch up as technology continues to evolve beyond their infrastructure means.

If you have ideas on how to make the Internet more accessible to indigenous communities, we want to hear from you. Registration will open soon for the Indigenous Connectivity Summit. I hope you can join us!

The Indigenous Connectivity Summit is an initiative of the Internet Society, the Internet Society New Mexico Chapter, the 1st-Mile InstituteNew Mexico Techworks, and the First Mile Connectivity Consortium.

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Internet Society

Supporting Internet Development in The Gambia

Dawit Bekele, the Internet Society’s Regional Bureau Director for Africa, paid a visit to The Gambia from 17-18 September 2017. This was the first time a senior Internet Society staff visited The Gambia with the intention of meeting Internet Society Gambia chapter leadership, members, and local partners. The aim was to discuss our past and future plans for more engagement and future Internet development. It was also an opportunity to raise the profile of the Internet Society Gambia Chapter.

During his short visit, Dawit Bekele and the Internet Society Gambia chapter executives took the opportunity to meet with the Minister, Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure (MOICI), Honorable Demba Jawo.

The team also visited and met with the Management of The Gambia’s Public Utilities and Regulatory Agency (PURA) as well as the Chairperson of the Serrekunda Internet Exchange Point SIXP, Mrs. Isatou Jah. Among the topics discussed was the way forward in fostering partnership with local stakeholders in supporting Internet development, security, and capacity building.

The official visit was preceded by a visit to the Internet Society Gambia office where the team met with the Director General of The Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (TANGO), Mr. Ousman Yabo, and toured the Internet Society Gambia office, library, and the TANGO hall facilities. The team ended the tour with a lunch and discussion at Ocean Bay Hotel and a short visit to Kachikally Museum and Crocodile Pool in Bakau.

About the Internet Society Gambia Chapter
The Internet Society Gambia Chapter’s goal is to bring together and work with local stakeholders in supporting local Internet development initiatives, especially in the areas of building technical capacity for local engineers and fostering Internet literacy and user awareness. The chapter also aims to work on promoting the development of local content, access, and policy and to encourage more engagements of our local community in national/regional efforts towards promoting open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people in The Gambia.

View photos of the visit.

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The Most Important Participant in the Internet Ecosystem

The Internet is borderless, decentralised and indiscriminate, and it can empower people across class, colour and social status. But one question has always intrigued me: How can the universality of the Internet be ensured and sustained? I received the theoretical response to this question at the Pakistan School on Internet Governance in 2016 where I learned about the multistakeholder model and community-driven approaches to addressing the broad range of complex issues of the Internet ecosystem. Being part of a telecom regulator in South Asia that generally follows the chain of command, the idea of inclusive policies and programmes was truly a revelation. I decided to explore further and applied for a fellowship to the 2017 Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) and the Asia-Pacific School on Internet Governance (APSIG).

APSIG kicked off on 22 July, followed by APrIGF that ended on 29 July in the beautiful city of Bangkok, Thailand. APSIG had a fantastic line up of speakers that touched upon advanced topics like the Internet governance ecosystem, data governance, cybersecurity, Internet of Things governance, gender equality and the digital economy. The learnings I gained from APSIG laid an ideal foundation for me to contribute to APrIGF discussions. As a first timer to these regional events, I was in a dilemma when I had to choose from the rich and diverse line up of APrIGF workshops to participate in. Thankfully, the APrIGF fellowship programme offered help by assigning subthemes to the fellows, and I was rapporteur for the subtheme on “the digital economy and enabling innovation”.

I learned that the digital economy is dynamic and complex, and requires a whole-of-society approach in order to reap its true benefits. It involves addressing a set of complex challenges related to access, affordability, quality of service, cybersecurity, online rights, licensing conditions, taxation and enabling innovation and a competitive online business environment. Moreover, connecting and enhancing the digital literacy of unserved and underserved communities should be a priority so that they can participate in the digital economy. More importantly, I have understood that governments need to step forward and become a part of this multistakeholder process and pursue the opportunities that the digital economy and disruptive technologies such as blockchain and the Internet of Things offer.

In one week of knowledge, networking, participation and engagement, I can confidently say that the people I met and the friends I made are easily the best part of the whole experience. We had a blend of professionals, students, experts, journalists, civil society and marginalised communities from all across the Asia-Pacific region that were welcomed with enthusiasm and warmth by the Internet community. The Asia-Pacific region has more than half of the Internet users in the world, yet the region as a collective voice, requires its Internet users to realise that they are the most important stakeholder in the Internet ecosystem, free from any chain of command. We, the Internet users, play a key role in shaping the Internet of the future.

Join the Everyday Heroes

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