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10 ways CIRA helps improve Canada’s internet that you might’ve missed

By Georgia Evans

At CIRA, we don’t call ourselves champions of the internet for nothing.  We believe that the internet can be an overwhelming force for good in the world and our vision of an open, trusted, citizen-centric internet underpins everything we do – big and small. While CIRA is best known for managing the .CA internet domain, we have a larger social responsibility to contribute to the internet as a national leader.

Beyond our domain services, CIRA works with businesses, civil society organizations and all levels of government on a variety of projects to build a better Canadian internet. While you’ve probably heard of our grants program, Canadian Shield and the Internet Performance Test, our work to build a better internet doesn’t end there.

Here are ten things CIRA does to help strengthen Canada’s internet that you might not know about:

1) CIRA partnered with Pow Wow Pitch to support Indigenous entrepreneurs

Pow Wow Pitch is a grassroots community of Indigenous entrepreneurs. They develop, enhance and accelerate growth for current and aspiring Indigenous entrepreneurs through targeted business programs and resources. CIRA is a seed sponsor of this initiative and is providing up to 1,000 .CA domains to Indigenous entrepreneurs, with CIRA staff also serving as mentors to pitchers. This partnership connects the Indigenous entrepreneurs that are part of Pow Wow Pitch with valuable resources, helps them save money on startup costs, but perhaps most importantly, it empowers Indigenous entrepreneurs to reach their audiences and build their businesses through the power of the internet.

2) CIRA supports Canadian Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) to make the internet more resilient

IXPs make Canada’s internet faster, cheaper and most importantly, more resilient. Governments, universities, content providers, internet service providers and businesses that peer at IXPs help keep Canadian data in Canada, reduce transit costs, improve performance and improve resiliency of the network. IXPs exist because of a dedicated community of volunteers who work to make the internet better, more efficient, and more resilient. CIRA is proud to count itself among the many dedicated people that contribute to the success of Canadian IXPs, with a CIRA representative participating in the board of governance at many IXPs. 

3) CIRA promotes digital development and philanthropy

The digital divide is apparent across Canada with gaps in access, affordability, digital literacy and usage. Even before the pandemic spotlighted these issues, CIRA knew the digital funding landscape in Canada was something worth paying attention to.  In October 2020, we released a first-of-its-kind report called Unconnected: Funding Shortfalls, Policy Imbalances and How They Are Contributing to Canada’s Digital Underdevelopment. It identified massive funding gaps facing community organizations working to improve internet access across Canada, and it’s been our springboard to promote digital development and issue a call to action for digital philanthropy. CIRA has also partnered with a social impact-focused media organization, Future of Good, to host a series of digital conversations to raise awareness around digital funding priorities and connect groups needing funding with funders.

4) We bring innovative security solutions to emerging IoT technologies

CIRA Labs is a hub within CIRA that builds solutions for a secure, trusted and accessible internet for Canadians. The CIRA Secure IoT Registry and CIRA Secure Home Gateway are two projects focused on securing IoT technology in the smart city and the smart home. The Secure IoT Registry was developed to address the security risk of IoT devices by leveraging similar DNSSEC cryptography used for .CA domains. The Secure Home Gateway protects smart home devices and home networks from IoT-based attacks.

5) CIRA staff volunteer their technical expertise to shape the future of the internet

If it’s an organization at the forefront of internet development, chances are CIRA staff are engaged as volunteers to contribute to building a better internet. Here are three examples of where you can find us:

  • Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF): The IETF is an international Internet standards body that develops open technical standards through a bottom-up process influencing how people design, use, and manage the internet.
  • North American Network Operators’ Group (NANOG):  NANOG is a forum to exchange technical information and discuss implementation issues among network service providers.
  • DNS Operations, Analysis and Research Center (DNS-OARC): As a silver member of the DNS-OARC, CIRA staff have been active on the board and program committee of this organization that is committed to bringing experts together to share information and coordinate responses to DNS-based attacks.

6) CIRA staff engage in international internet governance fora on behalf of the .CA top level domain

In addition to participation in technical bodies like the IETF, CIRA staff regularly engage in international internet governance on behalf of the .CA top level domain. For instance, CIRA staff participate in working groups at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). CIRA President and CEO Byron Holland vice-chaired one of ICANN’s supporting bodies and Chief Technology Officer Jacques Latour is a member of an ICANN advisory committee around internet safety and stability. You can also find CIRA staff representing Canada at international forums including the  Internet Governance Forum and the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network.

7) We participate in government and regulatory consultations to promote the principles of an open, trusted internet

Throughout the years, CIRA has weighed in on important internet policy issues. Here are a few examples:

  • 2019: We commented on the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Panel to provide recommendations to update legislation for the rapidly evolving digital age.
  • 2020: The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) called for comments on the barriers around deploying broadband-capable networks in underserved areas. We responded by addressing how the gap in network performance data hampers the goal of meeting the CRTC’s universal service objective.
  • 2021: CIRA submitted a proposal to the CRTC’s botnet consultation to ensure any framework to filter for network security is narrowly tailored and does not lead to content blocking.  We also consulted Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada on the role online intermediaries play when combatting copyright infringement, arguing that website blocking should not be used when more proportionate responses are available.

8) We provide a wealth of free advice for businesses pivoting online

Are you a small business looking to build an online presence? Not sure how to get your first website up? Don’t know how to protect your business against cyberattacks? Want to know more about cybersecurity insurance? Head to CIRA’s blog for the answers to these questions and more to help get your businesses’ online presence started. As well, we have cybersecurity resources to help keep your business safe online.

9) CIRA invests in students pursuing careers to develop Canada’s internet

Students are the future, and that’s a concept CIRA embraces. Every year, CIRA partners with local universities to offer co-op students work terms. On the job, they learn about internet governance, the domain name system, registry design and more; their experiences at CIRA give them a competitive edge for their careers in Canada’s technology industries.

This year, CIRA has also partnered with Carleton University’s Women in Engineering and IT (WiE&IT) Program that works to increase the inclusion and visibility of women in the fields of engineering and IT by providing them with the resources to transition from university to the workforce. We also help young professionals get their first taste of global internet governance by sponsoring fellowships to attend events like the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

10) We provide resources for municipalities seeking to improve their connectivity

As part of our Smart Community Performance Testing, communities have access to a custom testing portal that provides data about their internet performance to understand where the need is greatest. As a part of this initiative, CIRA meets with the municipality representatives and, on occasion, attends town council meetings to advise them on what the results of their internet test data means. We can also offer advice to communities around funding options for network improvements. As a leader in the internet community, we’re proud to connect them with resources from the government, private sector, or the not-for-profit sector—ultimately helping them make strides in upgrading the internet for their residents.

About the author
Georgia Evans

Georgia is a Policy & Advocacy Analyst at CIRA and is very passionate about internet governance and digital policy.