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i2Coalition Launches Solutions Strategy for an Open and Free Internet

Written by Christian Dawson, Executive Director, i2Coalition

As the voice of the Internet’s infrastructure, the Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2Coalition) advocates for companies working for the benefit of the Internet as a whole. Since our formation more than ten years ago, the i2Coalition has found that when we engage with policymakers, they are usually focused on solving particular problems they see online. Often, what they know about the Internet’s infrastructure is filtered through a narrow lens. When the i2Coalition and our allies engage legislators and regulators on policy issues, we spend a lot of time and energy educating them on how today’s Internet ecosystem functions. While our outreach has been effective, most of our efforts have been reactive, explaining how well-intentioned policy proposals will have broader negative impacts.

Pursuing Proactive Solutions and Setting Standards

As an organization with a mission to unite the Internet’s infrastructure leaders, we recognize our ability to do more than just educate against bad policy ideas. We can widen our approach by proactively pursuing solutions—including organizing technology leadership discussions to create standards-setting practices to address problems and change behavior. Our experience enables us to identify the problems caused by bad actors in our space and to respond by setting clear bars for responsibility and accountability. Based on the formidable strength of the current i2Coalition membership, we are in an ideal position to establish clear-eyed benchmarks, foster trust with stakeholders outside our members’ industries, and build a solid foundation for future growth. The companies we work with that are building and operating Internet technology every day understand better than anyone else where the specific problems lie and how to craft appropriate solutions.

The Future Vision for i2Coalition

As the i2Coalition sets a course for the next decade, we are broadening our work beyond advocacy and education. We’re leveraging our ability to undertake proactive initiatives that organize the Internet industry and set new standards for responsible behavior. We want to establish frameworks for solving problems together before they hamper the Internet’s future development.

VPN Trust Initiative and the Seal Program

We have already started this solutions-based work in 2023 with a recent launch of the VPN Trust Initiative (VTI) VPN Trust Seal, an accreditation program to set and promote industry-wide principles for responsible providers in the virtual private network (VPN) community. VPNs, while key to a free and open Internet, are prone to misconception and potential abuse. Starting in 2019, the i2Coalition’s efforts through the VTI have focused on identifying problems, developing solutions, and steering the positive development of VPNs.

This proactive work sets the tone for our new decade: serving as advocates, educators, and architects of industry-driven solutions to enhance Internet safety and quality by setting the right standards and holding each other accountable to them.

The Importance of Accountability and Standards

The VPN Trust Seal allows providers to hold each other accountable for their adherence to agreed-upon industry principles while improving digital safety for consumers by building understanding, strengthening trust, and mitigating risk for VPN users. Those who pass the accreditation test and meet the scrutiny of their peers earn the privilege of displaying the VPN Trust Seal, which showcases their adherence to the industry commitments established by some of the world’s top VPN providers and experts.

Ethical Web Data Collection Initiative (EWDCI)

We recently started a second project with similar aims, pulling together companies in the web data aggregation space (sometimes known as “web scraping”). We organized the Ethical Web Data Collection Initiative (EWDCI) to take an active role in efforts to help web data aggregation companies set a bar for responsible behavior in the industry. The i2Coalition convened a working group composed of those working in the web data aggregation field for frank discussions about how the sector is evolving and how it is perceived by the world at large.

The EWDCI is dedicated to defining clear principles for what constitutes responsible action in that sector, to focus on positive and beneficial existing and potential uses of data collection and aggregation at scale. To this end, we also introduced the EWDCI Certified designation, which enables a company to promote its commitment to an agreed-upon set of best practices.

Upcoming Collaborative Projects

The VPN Trust Seal and EWDCI Certified initiatives are off to encouraging starts, confirming the value of the i2Coalition’s broader focus on creating solutions for specific Internet infrastructure industry segments. This new dimension of our work is just beginning, and i2Coalition will be announcing similar collaborative projects in the near future.

Building a strong, safe, and resilient Internet is an ongoing practice and commitment. The i2Coalition and its partners are committed to working with industry leaders, policymakers, consumer groups, and more to keep the Internet open as an engine for growth and innovation.

By i2Coalition, Internet Infrastructure Coalition

Founded in 2012 by a diverse group of Internet infrastructure companies, the Internet Infrastructure Coalition supports and represents those who build the nuts and bolts of the Internet. We treat the work of the Internet infrastructure industry like the noble profession that it is.

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