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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org latest by October 31, 2022 but submissions are welcome also earlier. The program committee will confirm participation by November 7, 2022.
- 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