Growing the Internet

Connecting Africa: Let's Keep the Momentum Going!

Location: Hyatt Regency Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Date: 30th August- 1st September 2016

I’m leaving an incredible week at the African Internet Summit in Bostwana feeling inspired! Africa IS at a tipping point and we need to keep the momentum going.

To that end I’d like to remind everyone about the African Peering and Interconnection Forum (or AfPIF it’s known) happening at the end of August in  Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

AfPIF about building connections.

Connections across boarders, connections between people, connections between governments, connections between businesses.  

AfPIF is the event to come to in Africa to meet:

  • Chief Technology Officers of Internet Service Providers or companies;
  • Technical experts who build and run Internet Exchange Points;
  • Policy and Decision Makers – both in Africa and Globally;
  • Representatives from financial institutions around the world

Here are ways you can take part:

Why are we doing this? Here’s why:

The Internet Changes Everything – Ghana from Internet Society on Vimeo.

Help #ConnectAfrica and join us!

Internet Governance

Let a Thousand Flowers

A recent misunderstanding at the NETMundial Internet Governance conference in Brazil focused on the meaning of the phrase ‘permissionless innovation’.

‘Permissionless innovation’ is a key technical principle that has guided the Internet’s development and evolution ever since its inception. As Jari Arkko, chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has argued: “Most of the applications in the Internet are the results of grass-roots innovation, start-ups, and research labs. No permit had to be applied, no new network had to be built, and no commercial negotiation with other parties was needed […]”.

At NETMundial, some chose to interpret this long-standing phrase to advocate innovation without any form of permission – imagine some sort of digital anarchy — for instance, without regards for existing intellectual property rights to recorded music or movies. As the Internet Society’s Chief Technology Office, Leslie Daigle pointed out at the time: “[Permissionless innovation] is about fostering innovation, not prompting anarchy”.

This is a significant detail.

Because, the fact is that ‘permissionless innovation’ is about the freedom to experiment and test the limits of human imagination. As Konstantinos Komaitis, Policy Advisor at the Internet Society suggested on another blog post: “It is about allowing people to think, to create, to build, to construct, to structure and to assemble any idea, thought or theory and turn it into the new Google, Facebook, Spotify or Netflix.”

While the immediate issue was resolved at NETMundial, a more recent announcement raises the more profound question of what does ‘permissioned innovation’ look like. On 1 May 2014, the Guardian reported that, a streaming music service in the UK, shut down after its main investor pulled the plug. The services had accumulated more than 1.1 million users in the UK in just over a year, and licensing deals with major record labels, but could not cover the resulting payments. The CEO noted in particular that ‘massive scale’ is required to justify a business case.

Thus, even with permission from the record labels, the resulting economies of scale led to entry barriers that could not surmount, and its main investor could not countenance. While had what, in almost any commercial pursuit would be considered an excellent start – an impressive 1.1 million customers in 16 months – other innovative startups never even reach the launch stage.

In “Copyright and Innovation: The Untold Story”, US scholar Michael Carrier argued that extensive litigation – whether threatened or pursued – focused on companies using digital content has been detrimental to investment and entrepreneurship. The result is that investors are not willing to invest in this area due to legal and economic uncertainty, which in turns reduces the number of startups and innovation.

As described in the term ‘permissionless innovation’, the Internet removes barriers to entry – technical or otherwise – allowing Jeff Bezos to start Amazon in his garage in Washington, Mark Zuckerberg to start Facebook in his dorm at Harvard, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin to start Google in their lab at Stanford. ‘Permissionless innovation’ produces a significant economic effect and creates the conditions for additional points of entry and access.

Digital music – whether streamed or downloaded – requires no physical inventory like Amazon books; no network of friends and family like Facebook; and no ‘secret sauce’ like the PageRank algorithm that propelled Google. Why should permission to sell digital bits not scale with the size of the seller?

In 2012, global revenues of recorded music increased for the first time since 1998, based on the increase in online distributed music. Thus, there is a market for online music, and no reason to restrict the market to just a few large players. With innovative new business models, the industry should be able to bloom.

Internet Governance

The Open Internet is Good for Business

There are many ways that the Internet is good for business.

Companies can use it to innovate and sell into new markets.  Within just a month or two of its launch in 1995, had already sold books in all 50 states and 45 countries, a feat that no traditional bookseller could have reached without years of investment and expansion.

Less well understood, however, is how the open Internet is good for business.   

The Internet allows for what we call permissionless innovation, where anyone can create and offer a service.  This enabled Jeff Bezos to start in his garage with just his savings, and expand rapidly into one of the largest global retailers. Likewise, Google and Facebook were started by students, alongside thousands of other entrepreneurs around the world who have pursued their dreams online.

From Togo to Mars

The open, collaborative and decentralized nature of the Internet is the perfect breeding ground for innovation and new entrepreneurs. This is particularly pronounced in the developing world, where the Internet is an engine for growth and sustainable development.  Whereas had to compete, and ultimately thrive, in a market where consumers already had access to bookstores, in developing countries often the online solution is the only solution.  

In the Philippines, just to name one example, up to 70% of adults use mobile money – many or most of whom were ‘unbanked’ before that.  A young inventor in Togo, Kodjo Afate Gnikou, recently raised more than $5000 on a crowdsourced financing site to design a $100 3D printer using scrap electronic parts. He plans to submit the design to NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge aimed at Mars.


The Open Internet enables these innovative new services and goods to be created and sold. An inventor in Africa is able to get online, browse the web to learn the basics of designing a 3D printer, raise money from a website in Europe, and enter a competition with the results in the US. This is a feat that would have been inconceivable without an open network.

The Internet works because its governance is distributed, open, inclusive, collaborative, and transparent. The concept that “all should have access to information and the opportunities it brings” is what maintains the Internet as one of the most impactful engines for growth and development in mankind’s recent history. It is the secret sauce, the idea that we all need to protect and build on.



Comcast Launches IPv6 Trials For Business Customers – Sign Up Today

comcast business logoWe were very pleased to see news yesterday on Comcast’s corporate blog about the launch of IPv6 services for businesses. Comcast’s John Jason Brzowski wrote there that:

  • Business Ethernet customers have had full IPv6 service and support in place for them since the beginning of 2013.

  • IPv6 trials are about to get underway for our Business Internet customers and we hope to launch full support shortly after completing the trials. Customers interested in signing up to participate in the trials can do so at

It is excellent to see Comcast offering these trials to their business users and we look forward to hearing of the success of those trials and the move to full IPv6 support.  Congrats to the team at Comcast for getting to this point.

If you are a Comcast Business customer, now is a time when you can sign up and get started with ensuring that your networks work fine with IPv6.   Why wait?