A network peering dispute between two major Internet service providers that disrupted thousands of users’ Internet access has entered a temporary respite, after the threat of government regulation reared its head.
Recently, Level 3 Communications de-peered its network from that of rival Cogent Communications after a commercial dispute over traffic volumes, meaning that customers of one could not access those of the other.
But after a few days of public dispute, media attention and some discomforting words from elected officials, Level 3 said it will reconnect to Cogent for 30 days while they work out their differences.
Because Internet users, apparently without notice from Cogent and through no fault of their own, have been impacted, Level 3 has, effective immediately, re-established a free connection to Cogent, Level 3 said.
While Level 3 had a different take on it, the reconnection came about shortly after news emerged that politicians were taking note of the situation.
Representative Ed Markey, a ranking member of the US House Telecommunications Committee, told the Boston Globe that he preferred to see a commercial resolution of the matter, but that regulatory intervention may be possible.
The FCC must be prepared to take steps to assure continuity of service to consumers in the event that the parties fail to reach an agreement, he told the paper.
Peering was restored later that day, but there was no official dialogue between the two companies, according to Cogent. Level 3 could not be reached for comment by press time.
It was escalating to a point where politicians were getting involved, the Cogent spokesperson said, without speculating whether this was why Level 3 reconnected. Cogent’s position is that we don’t think there is any need for any legislative oversight here.
Peering is the name given to an arrangement where two networks connect to pass traffic from their customers to each other, often without any money changing hands. It’s one of the foundations of the Internet.
All of Cogent’s relationships with other networks are peering arrangements, according to a spokesperson. The firm does not buy transit services, which would have allowed it to send traffic to Level 3 via another network, he said.
There is no agreement upon why the peering was terminated in the first place, but it may have been that it has to do with the ratio of traffic passing between the two networks and the pricing disparity between the two companies.
Cogent’s position was that Level 3 was unhappy with Cogent’s cheaper bandwidth pricing and dropped the peering after being unable to persuade Cogent to raise its prices.
Level 3’s position was that Cogent was sending it more traffic than it was receiving, passing the cost burden of handling the traffic unequally to Level 3.
Simply put, this means that, without paying, Cogent was using far more of Level 3’s network, far more of the time, than the reverse, Level 3 said. We decided that it was unfair for us to be subsidizing Cogent’s business.
Cogent disputed that, CEO David Schaeffer saying: In fact, it is Level 3 who requested that Cogent send more traffic across their network since Level 3 charges by the bit, and increased traffic flow helps them financially.
Level 3 noted that Cogent had ample warning that the depeering was to happen, and wondered aloud why Cogent had not made alternative transit arrangements to avoid disrupting its own customers.