Surprisingly, a lot more than you would imagine. The coronavirus pandemic that has been sweeping the world has entirely rewritten the rules for society, for how we interact, how we work and how we connect, and most of that points towards the Internet. Keeping the Internet going is a job that infrastructure companies have been doing for most of their existence, and a surge of traffic and use has not changed that. The shift towards the Internet for a majority of activities also means that the potential for things to go bad and for bad actors to have more potential victims would inevitably go up. That has not been the case. One poignant example is the domain name system industry, which has been able, with its limited tools, to address issues that have come our way. Not only have they quietly been keeping things going and protecting us from abuse, the domain name system industry has also been at the base of the scaling up of most of the world’s activities online. Most people don’t realize how much they come in contact with the work of infrastructure companies.
Making sure the Internet works….
Internet infrastructure companies have been ensuring that services built or relying on the Internet can continue working, from the early days of the commercial Internet onward. While the pandemic has been an unprecedented event for the digital era, the Internet has not struggled to maintain its fundamental functionality. Internet infrastructure companies have continued to work and keep everything running since the measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 were first implemented, which shows the resilience and capability to scale up fast based on sustained increased demand.
Internet infrastructure companies fit mostly within Layer 1 (Internet backbone, exchanges, colocation, etc.) and Layer 2 (web hosting, cloud hosting, domains, SaaS, edge/fog, etc.). An Internet industry report commissioned by eco, shows that Layer 1 is dealing 1 with increased data throughput through the increase in remote work, e-commerce, and streaming use. Layer 2 benefits from the additional need for flexibility and scalability during the crisis – businesses want flexibility and scalability in this time.
As many businesses struggle, Internet infrastructure providers are in a position to help. According to i2Coalition member companies, rather than cut off customers whose industries are being disrupted, many Internet infrastructure companies are finding ways to help their IT remain operational by reducing rates, postponing payments, and working with various partners to offer discounts and other programs for customers who have been negatively impacted.
…that the Internet is healthy…
The Internet, like most tools, is used by all manner of society and, inevitably, it will be put to malicious use by some. Like the real world, simply making things illegal or against the rules isn’t enough. For instance, in dealing with DNS abuse, ICANN, the registry and registrar community and the broader groups in charge of law enforcement have done a strong and consistent job broadly but also specifically related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the contentious communications with the European Union, in the context of the ongoing institutional process for the EPDP, the ICANN organization along with Registries and Registrar have created and run systems that quickly and efficiently helps identify abusive domains leveraging the coronavirus pandemic. Registries and registrars have put into place significant resources to tackle a potential avalanche of abuse of the domain name system. However the numbers show that it hasn’t materialized.
…and doing it all by being invisible.
The end-user rarely has to worry or even think about a lot of what domain name systems companies do to keep things humming along. Working primarily in the background, infrastructure companies provide a critical yet completely overlooked service, unless something out of the ordinary, like abuse of the domain name system, or general downtime, happens. While some essential workers have continued to go to their jobs physically, a significant number of the population around the world has continued working online. Schools have primarily transitioned away from an in-person model to a hybrid, or fully online, and socializing has moved almost entirely to video apps and websites. The Internet’s infrastructure has not only endured, but thrived. The opportunity and ability to scale and support increased work has been fundamental to the increased load the Internet has to bear, and yet most end-users take this fantastic technical undertaking as a given. While it is important to make sure that the world is being protected from malicious attacks and evil actors, it’s just as important to acknowledge the tremendous work being put into making the internet not just safer, but faster, stronger and more accessible.