May 15, 2017
Good afternoon and welcome the Annual General Meeting of the Internet Society, Canada Chapter. I am pleased you could take the time to be here.
As Chairman it is my privilege to lead, guide and follow a bunch of dedicated volunteers. Together this year we have held a number of interesting focus groups on issues of topical concern, submitted a significant set of interventions to federal public processes, and always we have relied on the energy, discipline, and skills of a dedicated group of people without whom this society would not exist.
I could spend a long time in thank-yous. The Board has conducted itself with focus and discipline. Our chief financial officer, Nancy Carter, has been a model of efficiency. Our outside counsel, Chris Copeland, has held the show together as a corporation and as a decision making body. I have had to rely particularly on Len St. Aubin and Philip Palmer for the substance of policy interventions to government.
Those interventions can be found on the website, internetsociety.ca.
Our office manager, Glenn McKnight, and our events coordinator, Franca Palazzo, have been diligent and effective. Everyone when called upon has come through. Witness Evan Leibovitch in his press release on the CRTC decision on differential pricing.
In terms of policy we have had the good fortune to be on the winning side of significant telecom-Internet issues. If I have been indulgent in my praise of the CRTC’s decision on differential pricing[i], forgive me, but I felt it was time to praise where praise was due. No other decision, to my knowledge, has so consistently underwritten an Internet-centric appreciation of the world we now live in.
I do not know for how long this policy environment will last. The Internet is beset with various threats, and always will be. There is never a lack of forces: capitalist, societal, and governmental, that consider that free communication of the kind that the Internet promises, and mostly delivers, is undesirable.
But I shall leave the contemplation of these larger issues for our policy interventions.
The most important news I have for you is that two Canadian not for profits, CANARIE and CIRA, have shown an inclination to assist the Society, and to this end we are in active discussion with them to finalize a proposal that, in one form or another, they might take to their respective boards for approval. If this comes to pass, as I think likely, it is probable that we may soon have funds with which to hire an executive director.
If that happy events comes to pass, we can begin to contemplate a less hand-to-mouth existence. We can begin to contemplate an improvement in a number of dimensions: fund raising, member communications, events and conferences, and the entire business of influencing policy and creating a space for Internet-centric policy in Canada. For as I have no doubt, our abilities as an organization are severely hobbled by a lack of funds. There are issues, such as member communications, in which I think our performance is woeful, and needs improvement.
As a chairman, I do not think it an exaggeration to say that I have all the problems of senior management and none of the tools with which to fix them. All I have is your energy, your knowledge, your discipline, and your commitment. In time, and with luck, we shall have some money with which to accomplish our tasks.
In future times it will seem astonishing that a simple set of communications protocols could ever have blown away so much economic and industrial power, and reorganized communications into a much less hierarchical, and much more egalitarian, system.
But the world is full of unexpected transformations. I hold in my hand a Deutschmark from the German Democratic Republic, the DDR, where one in ten people was an informer for the secret police. That apparently unchangeable situation came to an abrupt end in 1989. The number of people who could not believe the end of communism was actually happening were legion. Things really can change, and not for the better. Yet in my life the Internet has meant a tremendous increase in the capacity of people to know, learn, organize, and exchange freely. This is what we in the Internet Society mean to protect.
The maintenance of the Internet model of communications, of the two way street between governors and governed, between power and citizens, is a cause worth fighting for. That is why I feel that we are doing important work, and I thank you each and all for your support in this endeavor.
1 Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2017-104