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IAB workshop on Environmental Impact of Internet Applications and Systems, 2022

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Internet communications and applications have both environmental costs and benefits. In the positive direction, they can reduce the environmental impact of our society, for instance, by allowing virtual interaction to replace physical travel. Of course, the Internet can equally well act as an enabler for increasing physical goods consumption, for instance, through easing commerce.

Beyond the effects associated with its use, Internet applications do not come for free either. The Internet runs on systems that require energy and raw materials to manufacture and operate. While the environmental benefits of the Internet may certainly outweigh this use of resources in many cases, it is incumbent on the Internet industry to ensure that this use of resources is minimized and optimized. In many cases, this is already an economic necessity due to operational costs. And because many consumers, businesses, and civil societies care deeply about the environmental impact of the services and technologies they use, there is also a clear demand for providing Internet services with minimal environmental impact.

This is a broad topic, ranging from technical questions to economics, business decisions, and policies. Technical, standards, and research communities can help ensure that we have a sufficient understanding of the environmental impact of the Internet and its applications. They can also help to design the right tools to continue to build and improve all aspects of the Internet, such as addressing new functional needs, easing of operations, improving performance and/or efficiency, or reducing environmental impacts in other ways.


The IAB is organizing a workshop to discuss the Internet’s environmental impact, discuss the evolving needs from industry, and to identify areas for improvements and future work. While the focus is on technical aspects, the scope is broadly on the entire Internet ecosystem, from the communications to the devices, applications, data centers, etc.

The main goal of the workshop is to call further attention to the topic and to bring together a diverse stakeholder community to discuss these issues. The workshop shall also:

  • Discuss the direct environmental impacts of the Internet, including but not limited to energy usage by Internet systems themselves, energy usage of the relevant end-user devices, resources needed for manufacturing the associated devices, or the environmental impacts throughout the lifecycle of Internet systems. Discuss the breakdown of those impacts across different system components and operations. Predict potential future trends for these impacts based on changed usage patterns and emerging technologies.
  • Discuss the indirect environmental impacts of the Internet, i.e., its effects on society overall, through enabling communications, virtual services, or global commerce.
  • Share information about relevant measurement metrics and data, and identify the need for additional metric or measurements.
  • Discuss the need for improvements or associated new functionality.
  • Share information about the societal, business, and regulatory situation, to help identify areas of opportunity.
  • Identify areas where further technical work would be most impactful.
  • Discuss specific improvement proposals.

We expect that the workshop discussions connect analysis of the issues (e.g., scale of energy consumption or carbon footprint) to industry needs (e.g., deployment opportunities) and solutions.

Business and societal policy questions are in scope only insofar as they inform the workshop participants about the context we are in, but what those policies should be is not for the workshop to decide or even extensively discuss. The scope excludes also how the technical community works and meets, such as the question of in-person or hybrid meetings (but note that this workshop is virtual).

Practical details

The workshop is organized as four half-day virtual meetings starting with a kick-off on Monday, December 5, 2022. The remaining sessions will be scheduled according to participant availability, likely also in the same week. A workshop report will be prepared after the meeting, to be discussed among the participants and then published as an RFC.

Note: While the workshop results are open, the participants may decide at the beginning of the meeting that specific contributions and discussions can only be shared anonymously, i.e., without attribution or inclusion of other identifying information.

Workshop participation is by invitation. Invitations are extended based on program committee reviews of position paper submissions. Position papers are typically short (2-4 pages) summaries of the participant’s thinking of a specific topic, but can also be more detailed articles. Not all position papers will be presented in the workshop, but they will be distributed before the workshop, form the background for discussions, and are expected reading for the participants.

Please send your position paper submissions to latest by October 31, 2022 November 7, 2022 but submissions are welcome also earlier. The program committee will confirm participation by November 7, 2022 November 14, 2022.

Program committee

The program committee members are:
  • Jari Arkko, Ericsson (program committee co-chair)
  • Lars Eggert, Netapp (program committee co-chair)
  • Luis M. Contreras, Telefónica
  • Toerless Eckert, Futurewei
  • Martin Flack, Akamai
  • Mike Mattera, Akamai
  • Colin Perkins, University of Glasgow
  • Barath Raghavan, USC
  • Daniel Schien,University of Bristol
  • Eve M. Schooler, Intel
  • Rick Taylor, Ori Industries
  • Jiankang Yao, CNNIC


Monday, 5 December 2022, 1500-1600 CET

Session 1: The big picture (Video) (Transcript) (Webex Chat Log) (Slides)

Session Chair: Jari Arkko

This session covers why the environmental impacts of the Internet matters, what types of issues need to be looked at (technical, non-technical), what are the potential broad directions for improvements, what’s been done already and what hasn’t, how all this relates to our societies, and so on.

  • Welcome, introduction and practicalities (10 min, Jari Arkko)
  • Lightning talks about the topic at the big picture level (4 x 5 min)
    These talks give the participants some information, highlighting how broad the environmental impacts issue is. This can be useful to be kept in mind during the rest of the workshop. The talks may also identify connections or areas that need attention.

    • Big picture (Jari Arkko)
    • What has IETF done so far (Toerless Eckert)
    • Carbon vs. energy (Eve Schooler)
    • Societal aspects (Vesna Manojlovic)
  • Discussion (30 min)

Thursday, 8 December 2022, 1500-1700 CET

Session 2: What do we know (Video) (Transcript) (Webex Chat Log) (Slides)

Session Chair: Colin Perkins

This session covers what we understand or do not understand about the situation. What data we have? Do we understand this well enough? Where is more measurements research needed? Are the methodologies sufficient? Who do we need to connect with in order to improve our understanding? Are there areas where our expertise is not sufficient and we need others?

  • Talks (4 x 15 min)
    These talks give the participants some information, but should potentially also highlight some open questions or challenges, which can be food for discussion in the later part of the agenda.

    • What we know about ICT energy usage? Is there any misinformation about it? (Michael Welzl)
    • Network operator energy consumption and trends (Jens Malmodin and Nina Lövehagen)
    • Role of peak demand in energy consumption (Daniel Schien)
    • What we don’t know? (TBD)
  • Discussion (60 min)

Friday, 9 December 2022, 1500-1700 CET

Session 3: Improvements (Video) (Transcript) (Webex Chat Log) (Slides)

Session Chair: Eve Schooler

This session covers protocol improvements, implementation improvements, other actions, incentives, …

  • Talks (5 x 10 min)
    These talks talk about specific areas of technology, and what improvements are needed, possible (or not possible). The talks can also highlight some questions that can then be talked about during the rest of the session.

    • Metrics (Alexander Clemm)
    • General thoughts on solutions & tradeoffs (Carlos Pignataro/Suresh Krishnan)
    • General thoughts on solutions & tradeoffs (incl. routing) (Alvaro Retana/Russ White)
    • Data formats (Brendan Moran/Carsten Bormann, TBC)
    • Multicast (Luis Navarro/Francois Michel)
  • Discussion (70 min)

Monday, 12 December 2022, 1500-1630 CET

Session 4: Next steps (Video) (Transcript) (Webex Chat Log) (Slides)

This session asks what can we see as future developments, what are the conclusions, what can we do and where, and how do we report from the workshop.

  • Reports from the earlier sessions (session chairs, 15min)
  • Lightning talks on what’s needed (6 x 5 min)
    These short talks should cover where we are on a particular topic and what is to be expected going forward. What actions would be useful? What directions are fruitful or not fruitful?

    • Carbon-aware networking (TBD)
    • Technology – implementations, protocols, open source (TBD)
    • Mobile networks (TBD)
    • What we should not do (John Mattsson)
    • IETF (Jukka Manner, TBC)
  • Discussion, conclusions, next steps (30 min)
  • Workshop closing (Jari Arkko) (15 min)
    • Report
    • Feedback

Accepted Papers