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Growing the Internet 26 January 2021

One Year After the First COVID Lockdown, A Secure Internet Shouldn’t Just Be for the Privileged Few

Mark Buell
By Mark BuellRegional Vice President - North America

This past weekend, we observed the one-year anniversary of the first of many COVID-19 lockdowns. Since then, schools, small businesses, healthcare providers, and financial institutions around the world have relied on the Internet to maintain operations and deliver critical services – bringing the need for broadband access into sharp focus. The overflow of demand for digital communication amid the ongoing pandemic has put the Internet’s structural integrity and capacity to the test. Overwhelmingly, it has delivered.

The Internet’s network of networks has enabled massive segments of the global workforce to shift to remote operations, allowed schools to provide online educations to students around the world, and offered a space for countless businesses and individuals to continue to serve their communities amid a global crisis. The Internet’s role in not just sustaining crucial aspects of day-to-day life, but enabling communities to thrive throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly crucial. It is clear – now more than ever – that the Internet is indeed a force for good. The success of the Internet is the result of its universally accessible, decentralized, and open architecture; this Internet Way of Networking must be protected to allow us all to use this critical resource to its full potential.

As the pandemic continues to present unique challenges to communities around the world, it is imperative that the Internet is safe, secure, affordable, reliable, and accessible to all. While this crisis has proven the Internet to be an invaluable tool and a necessity, it has simultaneously exposed existing disparities and emerging threats. For example, nearly 50 per cent of the world’s population still lack the ability to work or study from home due to lack of access. For many who do have access, slow speeds and high prices characterize their Internet service, preventing them from taking part in daily life. Contact-tracing apps raise privacy concerns around the world. Cyber attacks directed at the healthcare sector have increased. And, despite the clear need for strong end-to-end encryption as more people work, bank, and access healthcare online, law enforcement agencies continue to call for backdoor access to encrypted communications and data.

We have identified specific actions that should be taken now to ensure that the Internet continues to be a force for good. Our recommendations are built upon following crucial properties:

  1. Meaningful, lasting change begins with connecting the unconnected. To ensure permanent, sustainable access for all, lawmakers and regulators must remove barriers to community-driven connectivity and make resources easier for communities to access.
  2. It is crucial that the Internet is kept strong. As the institutions our communities and global economy rely on continue to migrate online, lawmakers and network operators should protect online data flows and ensure that people and organizations continue to find the Internet trustworthy.
  3. At a foundational level, effective policy to meet the needs of Internet users must be supported by sound information, reliable measurements, and accurate data. Lawmakers and regulators must take steps to better understand the challenges of connectivity and security.

While we can see a light at the end of the tunnel with the promise of vaccines rolling out in 2021, this past year has shown us that it is urgent that the Internet continues to be developed, supported, and promoted as a global technical infrastructure, a resource to enrich people’s lives, and a force for good in society. With an open, globally-connected, secure, and trustworthy Internet, we can emerge from this crisis with stronger communities and a bolstered ability to meet the needs of our changing world.

Read our COVID-19 recommendations and join us in promoting a more accessible, affordable, reliable, and sustainable Internet for all.

Image by Gabriella Clare Marino via Unsplash

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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