The Internet has 1.3 billion users, but that's not enough for Lynn St. Amour. As CEO of the Internet Society, she is expanding the nonprofit group, which promotes development of the Internet globally. St. Amour doubled the group's staff in 2007 and beefed up its outreach activities in Africa, South America and Asia in her bid to add another billion Internet users worldwide. National Correspondent Carolyn Duffy Marsan sat down with St. Amour this week at a meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force, an ISOC-funded standards group.
The Internet Society's staff is growing and the organization is getting more involved with technical issues as evidenced by the hiring of Leslie Daigle as the first Chief Internet Technology Officer. Why is ISOC making these changes?
One reason is that we have the financial means. We're acting within our purpose and mission. Putting in more full-time staff allows us to do that much more aggressively. [ISOC has 26 staff, compared with 14 a year ago.] Mark Thalhimer came on last year as our first-ever communications director to help us get our message out to different audiences. Leslie Daigle came on as Chief Internet Technology Officer to allow us to get more involved in standards development and technology. Yesterday, we added Bill Graham, who used to be with the Canadian government, to help us reach out to the highest level of policymakers. We are doing what we can to preserve the open, end-to-end model of the Internet and to address issues such as IPv4 address space exhaustion and IPv6 deployment. It's clear that we have a unique role to play at the intersection of technology and policy. The creation of these new positions gives us significant resources to do that.
The Internet Society has 26,000 individual members. What are you doing to increase your corporate membership?
We're reaching out along with the IETF to network operators and particular communities like ISPs. Some of those communities are participating less in the IETF than historically. It's critical that they do participate. At the end of the day, standards are how the Internet gets deployed. We're looking for their input in standards development. The Internet Architecture Board, [another ISOC-funded group], plans to be much more present in some of the network operator forums.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for the Internet Society in achieving its goal of open development and growth of the Internet around the world?
The first is government regulation and policies, particularly with the IPv4 and IPv6 situation. That [transition] can drive actions within countries that would be counter to the end-to-end nature of the Internet.
The second is Internet governance activities through organizations such as the United Nations. Any opportunity to get people together from different backgrounds and to talk about the Internet is ideal. But trying to put a level of formality or structure around the development of the Internet and the management of the Internet will significantly impact the value of the Internet. It's a bad thing. We prefer the organic way the Internet has developed historically, through standards development based on need. That model has shown its strength and its goodness in the rapid growth of the Internet. Trying to force-fit a more centralized environment ala the telephony model will take away some of the good elements that have developed in the Internet.
The third is access. Enabling access includes ensuring people have the right technical skills and ensuring that there is a business environment and a regulatory environment that supports Internet development.
Why is the Internet Society promoting the deployment of IPv6?
Because it maintains the open, end-to-end Internet. That's the primary reason. There are lots of secondary reasons about access to Internet resources and what happens if there aren't enough IPv4 addresses. Our worry is that more [network address translation] will pop up and secondary markets for IPv4 address space will pop up that will work contrary to the purposes of the Internet.
Are you disappointed by the lack of IPv6 deployment?
It's hard to find what the drivers are for IPv6. Rightfully, most end users don't care if they access the Internet over IPv4 or IPv6. So there's no market demand. Unlike Y2K, there is no fear. There is no crisis point or date. There's also no date when we turn off IPv4 and turn on IPv6. So all the normal trigger points are not present. We're spending a lot of time on how do we create the impetus for movement. Disappointed is an odd word. I fully understand why people aren't embracing it and aren't moving. And I think it's up to the technical community to explain the advantages of the common, open Internet and the losses if we moved to a more closed Internet. Hopefully, that will inspire action.