Internet Performance for Dummies

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Chapter 2: Internet 101 15 These materials are © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Any dissemination, distribution, or unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Peering matters In 2005, Cogent and Level 3 had a wee tiff over peering. Level 3 turned off its connections to Cogent for a few days as part of a strategy of negotiating new terms of intercon- nections. Politicians clamored to offer new and ill‐considered regula- tions for large‐carrier interconnec- tion. In the process, politicians and much of the media revealed their limited understanding of how the Internet works. The organization, character, and structure of network interconnec- tions affect everything about how the Internet works (and sometimes doesn't work). Peering (settlement‐ free interconnection) is a significant part of that. The evidence is that the market will take care of maintaining the full con- nectivity of the Internet, but it won't always do so on your timetable or mine. Witness the Cogent/Level 3 peering dispute. Level 3 peered with Cogent, apparently settlement‐free. Level 3 is a default‐free network, which just means that it is so large that it connects to every other default‐free network for free. There is no company that Level 3 pays for Internet transit. Cogent is in the challenging position of being almost default‐free. They have settlement‐ free interconnections from lots of big carriers, but they still pay Verio for transit to the ones that they're miss- ing (mostly Sprint). So when Level 3 disconnected Cogent, in theory, Cogent could have reached Level 3 via Verio. They just chose not to. In theory, Level 3 could have contracted for transit to reach Cogent via some- one else, too. They also chose not to. And so during that period, custom- ers who were single‐homed on the Level 3 network (that is, customers who had no connectivity from any other provider) could not reach cus- tomers who were single‐homed on the Cogent network. That was a fair number of people. It only lasted for a few days and during that time both parties were subject to intense pres- sure, by the public and most impor- tantly by their customers, to fix the situation. And so they did. Level 3 and Cogent resolved their dispute. Peering dis- putes are part of the life cycle of the Internet. This dispute was not unprecedented; it was not new; it was not catastrophic. It will also not be the last time two big networks go head‐to‐head to decide what value each of them gets out of the con- nection between them. This isn't an aberration. This is how it is supposed to work!

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