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North America

Regionally, North American governments
© iStockPhoto / Internet Society

Regional Context:

Canada and the United States have been viewed as technology leaders since the Internet’s early days.

With economies driven largely by the information sector, their global position in the world’s growing information age is indisputably strong.

This comes both as a challenge and an opportunity for policy leaders and the North American public.

Regionally, North American governments and decision makers are aggressively pursuing strong policy regimes in areas such as cyber security, privacy, net neutrality, and intellectual property.  The Internet Society helps to ensure regional policy makers are aware of the global implications of their work.

As the Internet becomes more integrated into everyday life, there is a growing concern that many users simply take the Internet for granted. They see it as something that has always been open and accessible, therefore creating a sense of awareness and urgency around Internet issues in North America remains challenging.

North America’s size also presents a unique challenge.  It makes up just under 5% of the planet's total surface area - about 16.5% of the World's total land area - making it the third largest continent on the globe, after Asia and Africa.

Due to its size, the region also has a significant amount of remote, minority, elderly, and poor.  Many of these groups simply do not have access to the Internet and are therefore unable to participate in the global democracy.

Content diversity is also at the forefront of North American Internet challenges. 

In addition to its two official languages Canada is made up of literally hundreds of cultures and dialects due to the rich and diverse cultures of its Aboriginal peoples.

The Inuit oral tradition, for example, is best served through visual and audio media. With slow-speed internet access, however, communication must be through English, text-based forms. Broadband will help Inuit realize the potential for visual two-way communications that complement their cultural world view.

How We Work:

The Regional Bureau in North America acts as an advisor to other Internet Society departments on issues affecting our work. Its also provides critical insight on local business, technology and policy issues to the Internet Society and its stakeholders.

The Bureau also works with Chapters to grow individual memberships, support their initiatives and help them advance in their support of the Internet Society's mission and values. This includes the focus on building trust and providing transparent guidance for Chapters and helping each Chapter develop strong projects.

We Focus On:

Policy - In North America, the Internet Society has many opportu­nities for engagement and consultation with policymakers. The United States and Canada are both imple­menting ambitious national strategies to increase high-speed Internet access, promote Internet innovation and tackle many of the challenges of the digital economy. As international leaders in Internet technology, industry, and policy, both countries are also extremely active in global and regional organizations that address Internet technical, economic, and policy issues.

Technology - Internet stakeholders in the region are making significant contributions to the development and deployment of critical Internet technologies. We have seen growing momentum in the region for IPv6 deployment, led by key US and Canadian companies and spurred on by a strong commitment by policy­makers. DNSSEC (domain name system security extensions) is also rolling out quickly in the region - an important step towards improving operational security. Finally, within the regional Internet community, there is keen interest in making progress on key operational challenges with regard to the Internet user experience.

Working with Private-Sector Leaders - The Internet Society is an important voice encouraging the US and Canadian governments to remain committed to private-sector leadership, a collaborative approach to technology development, and the free flow of information online.

Developing Partnerships - Additionally, it is crucial for the Internet Society that both countries continue to demonstrate strong support for the multistakeholder model that has served the development and advancement of the Internet since its inception. As the Internet expands and pressure mounts on governments to address cybersecurity, privacy, child safety, network neutrality, and copyright, it is more important than ever that Internet Society’s principles of openness, collaboration, and bottom-up decision-making are a central part of the regional dialogue.

North America Blog

  • Yesterday’s decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) should be welcomed by advocates of net neutrality. Though not an ideal decision in certain respects, and continuing to make clear the need for specific, updated legislation on online connectivity and communication, it does nevertheless enshrine some of key principles of net neutrality in the CRTC’s regulatory framework.

    Originating from a specific complaint against zero-rating data practices by Quebec-based ISP Videotron, the ruling builds a general framework for online traffic treatment...

    Date published 21 April 2017

  • Privacy has been a top-of-mind issue in the United States for the past couple of weeks. Last Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted to repeal privacy rules (pdf) passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year. The vote was close, 215-205, but it appears likely that the President will soon sign the resolution into law. Once that happens, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will not have to obtain opt-in approval from their customers to share information about their online activities (like their browsing history...

    Date published 31 March 2017

  • Shuli Hallak photographs the Internet.  And when we say she photographs it, we’re not just talking about cool pictures of wires (although those are in her portfolio) but entire worlds that are up and running right under our noses but remain invisible.

    Her work is helping to demystify the sometimes complicated language surrounding the open Internet and is building a new understanding of how important the open Internet is for people everywhere.

    She is Executive Vice President of our Chapter in New York and an active member in our North American Bureau.


    Date published 19 August 2016

  • The provincial government in Quebec recently passed legislation that will require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block access, at the Domain Name System (DNS) level, to gambling websites that originate outside its borders.

    Known as DNS blocking, this practice is not normally seen in highly-developed democracies like Canada (though it’s certainly not unheard of). It forms part of China’s Great Firewall, and was used during the Arab Spring to limit communications between protestors. I think Canadian legal...

    Date published 13 July 2016

  • What's at stake in 2016: Internet leaders meet at IGF-USA to discuss Internet growth and policy

    Eventbrite registration required 

    On Thursday, July 14, thought leaders from civil society, industry, academia, and government will meet at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC for IGF-USA - the preeminent conference on Internet governance in the United States.

    The Internet Governance Forum USA (IGF-USA) is a multistakeholder effort to illuminate issues and cultivate constructive...

    Date published 04 July 2016