Saturday, October 08, 2005
FIRST AMENDMENT: Business dispute shuts down one-fifth of Internet
Here's an example of something we touched on in class last week --
business disputes among large Internet service providers which have the
potential the balkanize and shutdown the open sharing of information. IN
this case, one giant ISP -- Denver-area based Level 3 Communications, is
allegedly upset that a competitor, Cogent, is beating them competitive by
charging low prices for internet service. As a result, Level 3 decided
this week to "pull the plug" on any traffic from Cogent -- affecting
Comcast and Time-Warner/Road Runner's access to all kinds of websites. By
Friday, they had resolved the dispute -- but Level 3 said it would only
connect with Cogent until Nov. 9 -- unless the business dispute is
resolved. Level 3 denies it is trying to pressure a competitor to raise
prices and says the dispute has to do with the fact that it is costing it
too much to handle Cogent traffic and wants to charge Cogent to do so.
Until now, they have had a "peering" arrangement where each had agreed to
exchange traffic at no charge to the other.
QUESTIONS: Should the government forbid the shutting off of connections
between major ISPs? If so, on what basis? What is to prevent some ISPs
from trying to create "private Internets" where they don't have to share
any traffic? How have the wireless phone carriers worked out this issue?
What are the implications for the free exchange of ideas? What if a major
news organization's website is on one network -- say Level 3 -- and it has
no other way to get its website to non-Level 3 customers?
Level 3 settles Internet dispute
Net firms resume sharing each other's fiber-optic networks
By News Wire Reports
October 8, 2005
A dispute between Level 3 Communications Inc. and a major competitor over
prices and terms of their Internet service ended Friday, a battle that
blocked off portions of the Internet for thousands of users worldwide for
more than two days.
Broomfield-based Level 3 and Cogent Communications Group of Washington,
D.C., had stopped handling each other's Internet traffic Wednesday,
meaning Level 3's customers -such as Cox Communications and America Online
- couldn't connect with those of Cogent, which links 360 Internet service
providers worldwide and has 9,500 customers, including many colleges and
Each company has its own Internet "backbone" - a network of high-capacity
fiber-optic cables that carry vast amounts of Internet traffic. These
fiber-optic networks link phone companies, cable companies and independent
Internet service providers, who pay Level 3 and Cogent for access to their
Cogent said Friday that Level 3 again was accepting its traffic.
"We are pleased that Level 3 has taken (this step) to restore full
Internet to their customers and ours. We welcome this move and hope and
expect the peering connections will be maintained," Cogent spokesman Jeff
Level 3 officials were not immediately available for comment.
Cogent Chief Executive David Schaeffer said earlier Friday that Internet
users had been blocked from millions of Web sites and e-mail communication
for Cogent customers had been disrupted. He said 15 percent to 17 percent
of the Internet was affected.
The dispute involves prices and the traffic Cogent puts on Level 3's
"They have been dumping a lot of traffic on the network," Level 3
President Kevin O'Hara said earlier Friday. "It's way out of balance to
what we have been sending them."
Cogent isn't overloading the Level 3 network, Schaeffer said. Level 3 is
trying to get Cogent to raise its prices for Internet bandwidth, which are
lower than Level 3's, he said.
"Level 3 basically said they can't sell at our price point," said
Schaeffer, who said his company's customer base is growing 250 percent a
year. "They wanted Cogent to stop what they effectively consider a price
Cogent charges customers $10 per megabit for network access, below the
market average of $60 per megabit.
Schaefer said Level 3 pulled the plug on peering - the practice of
exchanging Internet traffic with peers, or other companies with bandwidth
- when Cogent refused to raise its prices.
"That is absolutely ludicrous," O'Hara said. "We've put a huge premium on
the ethics of how we do business."
The cutoff affected Time Warner Inc.'s RoadRunner Internet subscribers
Thursday, though service was rerouted, Time Warner Cable spokesman Keith
Cocozza said. He said TWC's 4.3 million high-speed Internet subscribers
may have been affected for about eight hours.
Cogent-Level 3 Peering Spat Ends.for Now
October 7, 2005
By Ben Charny
Network operator Cogent said Friday that rival Level 3 "has taken the
necessary actions" to once again carry its customers' Internet traffic, a
sign that days old service disruptions for a significant number of
Internet users are over, for now.
As been reported, Level 3 Communications, a major Internet
network operator, has since Wednesday refused to make room for traffic
from rival Cogent because of an ongoing dispute about financial
arrangements. The nasty turn has disrupted Internet service for between
five and 10 of Cogent's customers since about Wednesday, Cogent estimates.
On Friday afternoon, Cogent said Level 3 has restored all peering
connections. Level 3, in a statement, said it's done so in order to let
Cogent customers make alternative arrangements. "We will maintain this
connection until 6:00 a.m. ET, November 9, 2005," Level 3 wrote in a
"We are pleased that Level 3 has taken the necessary actions to restore
the full Internet to their customers and ours," Cogent wrote in its
statement. "We welcome this move and hope and expect the peering
connections will be maintained and a productive dialogue established."
Click here to read more about the spat between Level 3 and Cogent.
A Cogent spokesman, Jeff Henriksen, was asked whether service had been
resumed to the customers impacted.
He wrote in an e-mail that "to date, there has been no dialogue between
the two parties other than notification that the connections were being
restored," and wouldn't comment further.
The apparent turn for the better in the spat follows an outcry for the
U.S. government to regulate traffic-swapping arrangements between major
These agreements, as the experiences of the last few days shows, are so
key that they can bring Internet traffic to a halt for significant amounts
Critics fear that more of these spats between operators will erupt,
cutting off even more people.
Such spats also bolster arguments from a number of European governments
that are calling for the United States to relinquish its unilateral
control over Internet governance, in favor of a new body. The United
States opposes the changes.
Click here to read more about how European countries think the Internet
should be governed.
In the days since the spat became public, U.S. Representative Edward J.
Markey, D-Mass., has suggested the Federal Communications Commission, the
nation's utility regulator, consider stepping into the fray if the
infighting between providers goes on.
Markey, a House Telecommunications Subcommittee member, told The Boston
Globe that the "FCC must be prepared to take steps to assure continuity of
service to consumers."
An FCC representative did not return a call seeking comment.
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