As the birthplace of the internet, North America is not among the top 10 in terms of average download speeds (the U.S.: 32.14Mbps, Canada: 24.23Mbps, as compared to Singapore at 97.67 Mbps and Hong Kong at 96.12 Mbps) or internet penetration (the U.S.: 88.5%, Canada: 88.5%, as compared to leading countries such as Iceland (96.5%) or Norway (95.1%)), while having significant advantages in comparison to the world average.
Having a population of over 300 million people, the United States is home to largest population of native English-speaking internet users. Additionally, its vast control over online content, infrastructures, companies, and institutions around the world is frequently discussed. Most of the recent research on the digital divide in the U.S. has been concerned partly or entirely with differences between urban and rural populations. Themes such as net neutrality, the Internet of Things, privacy, state and regional control of institutions and infrastructures of the internet, particularly the ownership of ICANN, and cybercrime are topics that are widely discussed regarding the state and governance of the internet in the U.S. Mass surveillance by the NSA has become one of the most prevalent topics of research after Snowden revelations.
The literature on Canada also features privacy and net neutrality frequently. Other notable topics of research are the place of the internet in economic development and national identity, safety of vulnerable populations –especially children- on the internet and prevention of crime, the digital divide, and information literacy of citizens using public spaces and academic environments.
Recurring themes in both countries otherwise known for their rights and freedoms are the conflicts between and the balancing of concepts such as “freedom and security”, “privacy and security”, “privacy/security and efficiency/ease/aesthetics”. Discussions on “privacy by design”, “intellectual property rights and internet governance” and “right to freedom of information” also have a place in the literature for both countries. However, it would be constructive to have more debate on these subjects.
Howard, P. N., Busch, L., & Sheets, P. 2010. “Comparing Digital Divides: Internet Access and Social Inequality in Canada and the United States.” Canadian Journal of Communication. Vol. 35. 109-128.
This article investigates the effects of differing policy interventions on digital divide in Canada and the United States. While reporting that this divide is closing in both countries rapidly, the authors report differences between the two in terms of distribution of internet access among populations with different educational and economic backgrounds, as well as the speed of bridging these gaps.
Slane, A. 2015. “Legal Conceptions of Harm Related to Sexual Images Online in the United States and Canada.” Child & Youth Services. Vol. 36(4). 288-311.
This article investigates a history of legal debates on the harms of child pornography and non-consensual distribution of sexual images in the United States and Canada. It aims to contribute to the knowledge of clinical and legal practitioners in helping the victims of sexual abuse related to online content.
The United States
Reynolds, A. 2011. “Enforcing Transparency: A Data-Driven Alternative for Open Internet Regulation.” CommLaw Conspectus. Vol. 19. 517-558.
This article emphasizes the role of information and communication technologies and infrastructures on our lives and discusses the creation of a set of rules by the FCC to regulate how ISPs treat data that flows over their networks. It contrasts two main approaches to net neutrality: one that advocates open access to internet with minimal control of ISPs over content and quality of connection, and another which argues that ISPs’ control over the networks is a natural part of supplying users with access to the internet and neutrality ultimately creates additional burdens on the end users.
Serwin, A. 2011. “The Federal Trade Commission and Privacy: Defining Enforcement and Encouraging the Adoption of Best Practices.” Vol. 48. 809-856.
This article discusses a need for balance between protection of consumers and creating incentives for innovation. It mainly focuses on privacy issues and usage of consumer data by companies. The author suggests that while usage of information about consumers may result in innovative ways to provide them with better goods and services, some companies might use the information irresponsibly or abusively. The author describes and compares different models and approaches in achieving a fair balance in this issue.
Armijo, E. 2014. “Government-Provided Internet Access: Terms of Service as Speech Rules.” Fordham Urban Law Journal. Vol. 41. 1499-1525.
This article is a review of legal implications of the state providing internet access in public spaces. The author approaches the issue in terms of regulation of “new speech spaces” and investigates the possible roles of private ISPs in controlling the flow of information to and from the public.
Gupta, A., & Samuel, C. 2014. “A Comprehensive Approach to Internet Governance and Cybersecurity.” Strategic Analysis. Vol. 38(4). 588-594.
This article outlines some of the hottest topics of discussion in the last few years including internet governance and cybersecurity, emphasizing the fundamental idea that managing the internet requires both technical and public policy approaches. The authors argue that including both of the categories requires inclusion of all stakeholders and relevant intergovernmental and international organizations. Sovereign rights of states, policy authority, involvement of different actors in internet governance and cybersecurity are investigated.
Toxen, B. 2014. “The NSA and Snowden: Securing the All-Seeing Eye.” Communications of the ACM. Vol. 57(5).
This article discusses a complex relationship between the rights of the public to access information that might be of importance, and significant issues of debate such a national security and state secrets. The author describes how “the Snowden revelations”, leaking of a significant part of around 1.7 million top secret documents to the press, have affected the relationship of the U.S. government with the American people and other countries, while providing an alternate scenario on how this issue could have been prevented.
Campos-Castillo, C. 2015. “Revisiting the First-Level Digital Divide in the United States: Gender and Race/Ethnicity Patterns.” Social Science Computer Review. Vol. 33(4). 423-439.
This article provides insights from the last decade on how much and in which ways the digital divide has been bridged in the United States. The author, analyzing nationally representative data, finds that segments of society that previously had lower amounts of access to the internet have shown the highest amounts of improvement in recent years, while there are still gaps between white Americans and other ethnicities.
Richards, E. L. et al. 2015. “Rhetoric versus Reality: U.S. Resistance to Global Trade Rules and the Implications for Cybersecurity and Internet Governance.” Minnesota Journal of International Law. Vol. 24(2). 159-173.
This article examines the United States’ fulfillment of its international obligations in practice and what it may lead to in terms of free trade and the United States’ leadership role in global policy issues including internet governance. It discusses issues of cybersecurity, as well assertion of “online sovereignty” by increasingly more nations around the world against the U.S. control over the internet.
Bailey, M. W. 2016. “Seduction by Technology: Why Consumers Opt Out of Privacy by Buying into the Internet of Things.” Texas Law Review. Vol. 94. 1023-1054.
This article weighs the utility and opportunities of using information and communication technologies and services against the privacy concerns that might arise in relation to the usage. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of devices that are connected to each other via the internet. The author points out that many of such devices collect personal information and investigates why users buy into the features and services offered by such systems despite privacy issue. She suggests that lack of comprehensive legislation on IoT might explain this behavior.
Kan, S. 2016. “Split Net Neutrality: Applying Traditional First Amendment Protections to the Modern Interweb.” Houston Law Review. Vol. 53(4). 1149-1177.
This article focuses on the implications and possibilities of using traditional legal approaches for relatively new technologies and services, specifically, applying traditional First Amendment protections to the internet. It states that communications providers are technically protected from complying with net neutrality, as they “cannot be forced to convey a message in the form of transmitting information” under the First Amendment. On the other hand, according to the author, the dearth of case law regarding this issue makes it a widely debated subject.
Anderson, S. 2009. “Net Neutrality: The View from Canada.” Media Development. Vol. 1.
The author of this article expresses the importance of an open internet, an internet free from the “corporate filters of traditional media” for average people to communicate directly with each other. He outlines the challenges against net neutrality by ISPs, and provides an overview of the debates about the subject in Canada.
Haight, M., Quan-Haase, A., & Corbett, B. A. 2014. “Revisiting the Digital Divide in Canada: the Impact of Demographic Factors on Access to the Internet, Level of Online Activity, and Social Networking Site Usage.” Information, Communication & Society. Vol. 17(4). 503-519.
This study examines the effects of demographic factors on access to internet services, online activity and usage of social networking platforms in Canada. It uses the 2010 Canadian Internet Use Survey to analyze the relationships among these variable. The authors report that activity and adoption is affected by many demographic factors that are related to other equalities existing in society. Such factors include age, immigration status, income and education. They indicate that the digital divide still persists, and it has recently spread to the level of online activity and usage of social networking sites
Dumitrica, D. 2015. “Imagining the Canadian Internet: A Case of Discursive Nationalization of Technology.” Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism. Vol. 15(3). 448-473.
This article investigates the usage of nationalism and nationalistic rhetoric on subject of the internet and emerging technologies in official discourse. It performs a textual analysis of the federal policy documents on new media in Canada in the early years of the internet. The author demonstrates how technology was articulated in these documents as “a material, economic and spatial resource for the Canadian nation.” She argues that nationalism is still an important mechanism to legitimize new ICT policies.
Mayeda, G. 2016. “Privacy in the Age of the Internet: Lawful Access Provisions and Access to ISP and OSP Subscriber Information.” Alberta Law Review. Vol. 53(3). 709-746.
This article discusses the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act and the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act as two recent attempts by the Canadian government to “create incentives for” ISPs and OSPs to provide subscriber information of internet users to the government. The author describes a conflict between privacy rights and justifications for limitation of such rights. He suggests a solution where privacy rights are more broadly defined, but the state is required to justify restrictions on these rights as an alternative that achieves a better balance between privacy and security interests.