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When carriers clash, Net suffers

Backbone squabble shuts down part of the Internet. Is it time for some adults to step in?

If the Internet is so crucial to virtually every aspect of business and government, how can squabbling companies be allowed to hold the Net hostage? This week large portion of the net has been offline due to a squabble between backbone long-haulers Level 3 Communciations and Cogent, News.com reports.


At issue is a type of network connection called "peering." Most of the biggest network companies, such as AT&T, Sprint and MCI, as well as companies including Cogent and Level 3, strike "peering agreements" in which they agree to establish direct connections between their networks.

That means that when a Cogent customer wants to visit a Web site hosted by Level 3, the data can take a short, fast path, instead of winding its way around the broader Internet.

Typically, peering agreements are made without any money changing hands, since each company expects to hand off a roughly comparable amount of traffic. Smaller network companies buy what are called "transit" agreements with larger companies, in order to hand off their customers' traffic to the big networks.

Isn't this where Internet governance comes in? Isn't this a question for ICANN or some other governance entity to resolve? Isn't it really important not to let corporate squabbles hobble business and critical government functions?