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Graeme Bunton

Slate: Nomination committee
Province: Ontario

Candidate Statement

I want to make the world a better place. What gets me excited about my work, what really motivates me, is the idea that I can make a difference; that I can put my values into action and make some small bit of the world better.

For twenty years I’ve been finding and creating opportunities to do that. I started mucking around in the messy intersection of politics and technology in 2001 when I helped found the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. My career over the past decade has been focused on Internet governance and the Domain Name System (DNS).

As a leader in the domain name industry, I’m uniquely qualified to help CIRA in its mission. Having spent more than ten years in the DNS community and four of them as elected Chair of a key representative body, I have excellent relationships with industry players large and small, both in Canada and around the world. I have deep knowledge of how domain registrars and registries operate, for both generic top-level domains (like .org) and country code domains like .ca.

I have an excellent understanding of domain industry dynamics, an understanding I employ as Executive Director of the DNS Abuse Institute (DNSAI). Success for our organization is found in identifying the places where the commercial interests of industry overlap with those of making the Internet safer. We explore the areas of complexity and friction within the DNS that make it harder for organizations to combat abuse and then identify and produce innovative solutions.

The Internet is changing. Regulating the Internet and its enabling organizations like CIRA is on the minds of governments around the world. There has been an increased focus on Internet security as the pandemic moved more people online. It is an important time to ensure that CIRA has the domain experience and knowledge to help navigate these changes.

Previously I managed a small and high-performing team engaged in policy issues related to our company’s business interests. These interests fell into three areas: domain names and internet governance, mobile telecommunications regulation, and lastly fiber broadband policy, funding programs, and digital divide issues; all issues relevant to CIRA’s mission of building a trusted Internet for all Canadians.

My board experience includes six years on the board of the Internet Infrastructure Coalition, a trade association for organizations like CIRA, including a year as Board Chair. I’ve built understanding and hard-fought consensus within the Internet governance community. I am familiar with the complexities of working with diverse groups and interests. I’m adept at encouraging and synthesizing divergent inputs, building consensus on solutions, and ensuring meaningful discussion and debate can occur. I’ve worked with a multitude of governments on projects with global ramifications, national security agencies to combat terrorism, and civil society groups to preserve internet freedom.

I think my unique knowledge and experience would be valuable assets to CIRA, especially in the current context. I look forward to the opportunity to contribute to a strong future for CIRA.

Mandatory Questions

1. Explain from your perspective what CIRA does and why it matters.

CIRA’s foundational mandate is to ensure that the .ca top-level domain is a resource for Canadians, that is both operated and managed by Canadians. To this end, CIRA has been extremely successful, with over 3.3 million .ca domain registrations. This represents an astonishing amount of Canadian culture and commerce online. What the Registry service really provides is an unambiguous online representation of Canadian identity on the global Internet. Providing a place on the Internet for Canadians, that reflects Canadian values and declares Canadian-ness is crucial as our lives move increasingly online.

CIRA’s additional services like its registry platform are a logical extension of its work. CIRA offering its registry platform as a service to other top-level domains leverages existing assets to generate more revenue for limited additional effort. Further, CIRA will be able to benefit from customizations and enhancements funded by customers. Finding and exploiting these opportunities will enable CIRA to grow and invest in its work in supporting a robust and resilient Internet for Canadians.

I think CIRA’s Community Investment Program, specifically the CIRA Grants program is one of CIRA’s most important activities. Canada is an awfully big place, and the Internet is amazing in helping to bring us together. But there are many people and communities that require more support to leverage the opportunities the Internet can provide. CIRA Grants can be transformative for people and communities. We need to scale the program and increase awareness across the country.

2. Why do you want to be on CIRA’s Board of Directors? In responding, please indicate how you would contribute as a CIRA Board Member and what specific skills and experience you bring that makes you a qualified candidate.

I want to be on the CIRA Board of Directors because I believe my knowledge and experience from over twelve years within the domain name system industry are rare, particularly within Canada, and I know they will be useful in supporting CIRA as it continues its important work. I am values-driven, and I believe those values, especially where they are focused on making the internet a better place, align with the values and mission of CIRA. The opportunity to apply my experience while helping the Canadian Internet be safe, dynamic, and resilient is an amazing opportunity.

I spent four years as the elected Chair of the Registrar Stakeholder Group within ICANN, effectively in charge of the domain registration industry (with a membership base representing approximately 90% of the Internet). My leadership tenure covered the implementation of GDPR (one of the most complicated issues the wider internet has had to navigate in recent times) and I successfully led the stakeholder group through its largest internet regulatory crisis to date. I also served six years on the board of the Internet Infrastructure Coalition, a trade association for Internet infrastructure providers, including a year as Board Chair.

Consequently, I have extensive knowledge of how domain registries and registrars work, what their priorities are, and what the trends and complexities are in the global domain marketplace. I am also deeply connected with the global stakeholders of the DNS, be they registries, registrars, governments, civil society, or policymakers. I have developed a reputation for building consensus and leading groups to achieve positive outcomes, and I believe these skills and experiences could be of great benefit to the Board. I am an engaged participant in the boards and committees on which I sit, and I look forward to bringing my enthusiasm and curiosity to CIRA.

I am a global expert within the DNS and Internet Governance, and I am regularly consulted by governments, law enforcement, regulators, and industry on issues related to abuse and the DNS. My contributions within the ICANN space are many, including representing registrars in the IANA transition. My recent work on proposing paths forward on issues of DNS Abuse has been supported by the ICANN CEO, and helped move ICANN contracted registries and registrars towards increased obligations on abuse. These changes will make the entire Internet safer.

In short, CIRA is looking for a rare set of experiences that I possess, and I am interested and excited to help make CIRA better.

3. What do you think are the top 3 challenges and opportunities facing CIRA in the next 3 to 5 years? What approach would you take to address these issues?

First, the global expectations for domain Registries are changing. The clean lines between the components of Internet infrastructure and their roles are becoming blurred. I have seen an increasing push for Registries to both verify their registrants and to have more responsibility for how their domains are used. This push is primarily done under the guise of safety, but there are many different interests involved. CIRA will need to very clearly articulate its values and approaches to online harms, and be prepared to explain complicated, difficult issues, almost certainly in a moment of increased public attention.

Second, the ICANN community is (slowly) plodding its way toward introducing another round of generic top-level domains (TLDs). This will present a substantial opportunity for CIRA’s registry services platform. Ensuring that the platform meets the needs of new entrants to the industry, and existing TLDs that wish to remain competitive in a bigger ecosystem, is going to be crucial for success. Balancing the ability to meet innovative registry operator requirements while being able to efficiently deploy and maintain service is going to be challenging. This is especially true in the above context of increasing responsibility and attention towards registries. CIRA will need to spend considerable effort to ensure its platform is a robust and flexible product, capable of responding to increasingly sophisticated registry needs.

Lastly, Canadians are increasingly aware of the dangers of online harms, and looking for ways to keep themselves, their families, and their businesses safe. CIRA’s cybersecurity services are an important resource, but increasing awareness and adoption will have substantial challenges. Further, the harms Canadians are concerned about – and may wish to block via services like Canadian Shield – may venture into difficult territory, like hate speech and misinformation pushing CIRA into the role of Internet gatekeeper or a quasi-censor.

The issues can be complicated without being quite so controversial too. There are no bright and clear lines between phishing, fraud, and just “not great” online merchants. How will CIRA decide where on that spectrum it chooses to act? Resolving these questions is going to require not just technical work, but considerable engagement with Canadian experts and civil society, to ensure that Canadians have the tools they need while preserving access to expression and a vibrant Internet.

View Graeme Bunton’s CV