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Level 3-Cogent Dispute Puts VoIP Peering in Spotlight
[October 07, 2005]

Level 3-Cogent Dispute Puts VoIP Peering in Spotlight

TMCnet Wireless and Technology Columnist
The ongoing peering dispute between two well-known Internet backbone providers highlights the risks of relying on the public Internet for the mission-critical tasks such as carrying voice traffic.


"How can an organization run their voice traffic over a public infrastructure that's so unstable and prone to disputes?" questioned Shrihari Pandit, President and CEO at Stealth Communications, a VoIP peering provider.
At issue is a dispute between Cogent and Level 3 Communications, which were cordial peering partners prior to this week. But on Wednesday, Level 3 terminated the peering agreement arguing that Cogent was siphoning more bandwidth than it was sharing. Level 3 now wants to replace the barter arrangement with a paid contract.
As a result of the dispute, spotty outages have been reported all over the Internet. According to Keynote Systems’ Internet Health Report, a de-facto standard for measuring backbone latency, interconnection points between Level 3 and Cogent were still critical, labeled “NA.”
On Friday, Cogent issued a statement offering to discuss the peering situation "anytime, anywhere" so long as Level 3 turned their side of the Internet backbone connections back on to minimize disruptions for customers.
"We feel this situation can easily be resolved without more impact to the customers of either companies. The seriousness of the situation has been made abundantly clear, and for the sake of Internet users, Level 3 should turn the connection back on and both parties should sit down at the table to discuss the situation," Cogent's CEO Dave Schaeffer stated.
"In fact, Cogent is willing to offer Level 3 free Internet service across our network to help alleviate their financial situation while also discussing appropriate traffic ratios. Cogent feels allegations of inappropriate traffic ratios have been incorrectly articulated by Level 3. 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 had no immediate comment.
But Cogent's sincerity quickly faded as the company used the limelight for grandstanding and to steal customers away from Level 3.

"Cogent's connection to Level 3 remains open, on and ready to accept their traffic. There is no situation that prevents them from turning on the connection other than a mindset that is willing to sacrifice customer connectivity at this specific point in time. Cogent feels that Internet users deserve better treatment while this situation is ironed out. That is why Cogent is appealing directly to Level 3 single-homed customers and offering them one year of free, dedicated Internet access to provide them with access to the full Internet, not just the Level 3 portion of it. This offer bypasses the problem, helps the customer attain full access to the Internet and eliminates the roadblock to Cogent's portion of the Internet. Cogent has already had significant success with this offer and will continue to make it available as long as the peering connection remains turned off by Level 3," Schaeffer was quoted as saying.
Stealth’s Pandit contended that one way to circumvent the problem entirely (and improve performance in general) is to establish direct Layer 2 Ethernet connections such as Stealth’s Voice Peering Fabric.
"Creating dedicated voice Internets at Layer 2 (Ethernet) like the Voice Peering Fabric will ensure that VoIP traffic/peering does not get disrupted because third party actions," Pandit explained in an email exchange with TMCnet.
What advantages and business implications do carrier-level peering points offer over dedicated fiber? How secure are peering connections? For the answers to those questions and more, mark your calendar to attend the VoIP Peering Summit at this fall’s INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & Expo, which runs October 24-27, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Robert Liu is Executive Editor at TMCnet. Previously, he was Executive Editor at Jupitermedia and has also written for CNN, A&E, Dow Jones and Bloomberg. For more articles, please visit Robert Liu's columnist page.

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