Digital Economy Consultation
It is with great pleasure that the Internet Society forwards this submission in response to the Canadian Government’s consultation on the Digital Economy. National ICT strategies are an important way for policy makers to articulate a vision, set goals, and identify priorities so that citizens can fully participate in the digital economy of the future and we commend the Government of Canada for seeking public input on how Canada can craft its Digital Economy Strategy. The Internet Society’s submission focuses on “Building a World Class Infrastructure”. In particular, we emphasize two key issues that will shape the future of the Internet:
- IPv6 – building the foundation for innovation; and,
- Keeping the user at the center of broadband policy.
The Internet ecosystem and Internet model
The Internet, and specifically broadband Internet, has become essential to users and businesses around the world, and is increasingly used to enable government e-services, banking, and many other important services. The Internet enhances entrepreneurship, community, education, the sciences, and cultural activities. To ensure the continued success of broadband and the Internet, it is not enough to simply dig trenches or build towers; supportive regulatory environments, competitive markets, innovative infrastructure and services, are also essential to ensure growth of the digital economy.
In addition to these considerations, the Internet Society believes that the success and value of the Internet unequivocally lies in the Internet’s openness and bottom-up development and management model. In launching this consultation, the Canadian government has highlighted the role of different stakeholders in the Internet’s success: “From the public and private sectors, to non-governmental organizations, academia and volunteer organizations, to students, consumers and citizens – we all have a vested interest in a dynamic and flourishing digital economy. The truly multi-stakeholder nature of the Internet is fundamental to continued growth and innovation. At the Internet Society we call this the Internet ecosystem  – diverse stakeholders, with different roles, different expectations, different interests, are united by a common need for a global, trustable, accessible Internet.
We applaud the government of Canada for articulating a vision in which the Internet and innovation are inseparable: “digital technologies are ubiquitous, enabling all sectors across the economy to be innovative, productive and competitive. The Internet and the proliferation of digital information and communications technologies (ICT) have given rise to new ways for people and communities to interact and innovate – changing the way we live . This unprecedented innovation has been possible because of the very nature of the Internet: shared global ownership, development based on open standards, and freely accessible processes for technology and policy development. The ability to develop, post, and access legal content, regardless of origin, is fundamental to the Internet’s success as a global platform. These principles are central to the development and ongoing evolution of the Internet.
Capacity to innovate using digital technologies
A foundation for innovation
The consultation paper touches on an interesting and critical question when it asks whether or not the Canadian government should “focus on increasing innovation in some key sectors focus or focus on providing the foundation for innovation across the economy
The Internet Society believes the best approach to this question is to focus on building a foundation for innovation. As the consultation suggests, governments can “assist by refocusing and realigning existing programs and policy levers to support the adoption of digital technologies across all sectors . Investment in a foundation for innovation is a truly enabling investment – one that empowers all stakeholders, from business to academia to the individual user.
Building a world-class digital infrastructure
A leadership role for Canada in IPv6
It is with this focus in mind – the imperative of building a foundation for innovation – that Canada can take an increased leadership role in building a strong national digital economy.
The Internet Society believes that IPv6 deployment is a central element in building any foundation for future innovation and a sine qua non for the building of a digital economy. Seamless global addressing ensures that Internet-based communications continue to be routed in the most efficient manner and to the right addressees, that government and business services continue to operate smoothly, and that digital economies continue to flourish. IPv6 adoption is both a necessity and an opportunity. It is a necessity because of the imminent depletion of the unallocated IPv4 addresses – it is an opportunity because those that plan for and adopt IPv6 will assume a leadership role in the global digital economy. Since IPv6 is so central to Internet continuity, stability, and growth, it should be factored into any national ICT strategy. The consultation recognizes the role of governments as, “model users”, noting in particular the development of a plan to for government adoption of IPv6. We commend the Canadian government for this high level of government commitment because we believe that it will increase nationwide momentum in Canada for the move to IPv6.
The consultation notes that, “Governments can promote private sector innovation by being a smart and demanding purchaser and a model user of advanced technologies and services . The Internet Society believes that Government of Canada could assume a greater leadership role in the digital economy with regard to IPv6 adoption, for example by following the suggestions made by the Internet Technical Advisory Committee to the OECD in which all governments were exhorted to act “as catalysts and lead by example”. In particular, the ITAC recommended that governments move quickly to provide government e-services over IPv6 . Leading by example will allow the government of Canada to ensure the continuity of government services while also laying the foundation for further innovation and growth in the digital economy.
IPv6 is also central to building a world-class digital infrastructure, an issue at the heart of the consultation. In many ways IPv6 is the other side of the broadband coin – there is little point in more investment in broadband without a similar level of commitment and investment in the addressing that will route the packets across those broadband networks. In this respect, just as the government of Canada seeks to promote broadband deployment, the Internet Society suggests that it should also link that broadband investment to a clear and demonstrable commitment to IPv6. We cannot stress enough how important it is that a national commitment to broadband go hand in hand with similarly proactive and explicit commitment to IPv6.
The Internet Society has published a briefing paper on the role that government can play in progressing the transition to IPv6 that we encourage the drafters of the digital economy strategy to consider.
The digital economy, user centricity and broadband policy
The importance of placing users at the center of the goals for the digital economy cannot be over-emphasized. The Internet of today has been shaped by the fundamental principle that the user is in charge of her or his online activities: today’s users choose and control where they wish to go on the Internet, who they wish to communicate with, the content and communities they wish to create or access, and the applications they wish to use. User centricity has driven innovation, the digital economy, the Information society, while measurably contributing to the wealth of nations: many of the Internet’s most vibrantly successful services started out as projects of individual users. The Internet Society believes that user-centricity is what has made the Internet a unique tool. User-centricity, and its importance for a truly open, competitive and innovation- oriented digital economy are explored further in the Internet Society’s " Preserving the User Centric Internet ” paper. 
The consultation recognizes that “the needs of consumers and businesses are constantly evolving and other industrialized countries are deploying advanced networks, which enable orders of magnitude increases in upload and download speeds. In a number of cases, countries have set targets for future network speeds and coverage .A recent report issued by the Internet Society outlining the results of several recent studies, represents the most detailed and comprehensive picture of bandwidth usage on the Internet today. There appears to be some rough consensus emerging that the annual growth rate for global Internet bandwidth lies somewhere between 40 percent and 50 percent.  It is important, therefore, that the policy environment supports and is conducive of further broadband deployment to ensure that this growing demand is met. In this regard, the Internet Society believes that policy and regulatory approaches that support the overarching principle of openness, and result in greater user access, choice, and transparency will greatly facilitate the building of a digital economy in Canada. We emphasize the importance of user access to Internet services, applications, sites, and content, including the ability for users to create and offer content and services. In practical terms, this means encouraging:
- Effective competition at the network and services level;
- A diversity of competitive service offerings that are transparent and enable the user to make an informed choice of provider and level of service;
- Unimpeded access to a diversity of services, applications, and content offered on a non-discriminatory basis;
- Comprehensible and readily-available information as to service limitations, network and traffic restrictions that the subscriber is subject to, and;
- Reasonable network management that is neither anti-competitive nor prejudicial.
Once again, the Internet Society commends the Canadian government for undertaking this important consultation on the development of a digital economy strategy and for seeking public input to bring forward new ideas and possible solutions to build a strong digital economy in Canada. We appreciate the opportunity to submit comments on “Building a World Class Infrastructure” which we hope will be useful as the government of Canada crafts its national strategy and we look forward to continued dialogue with the government of Canada as this strategy develops.
3. ibid. ↩
5. Ibid p 15 ↩
6. Ibid p 14 ↩
7. Ibid p 22 ↩