FCC – Back to the Days of Prohibition for Peering?  

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Any resemblance between Tom Wheeler and Eliot Ness is purely coincidental? 

FCC wants to arbitrate Peering agreements

Peering coming under FCC jurisdiction

Looks like the FCC is on a mission to “Fix the Internet” once and for all.  It has been leaked by an unknown source (Bloomberg) that the FCC now plans to oversee peering deals done between contentment providers/aggregators (such as Netflix) and the Service Providers. It seems that Mr. Wheeler has decided to follow President Obama’s lead on Net Neutrality and push for the strictest possible regulations, but how does that relate to interconnections or peering?

Internet Peering – What is it good for?

Wikipedia defines Peering as a voluntary interconnection of administratively separate Internet networks for the purpose of exchanging traffic between the users of each network.  Essentially the Internet is made up of a whole lot of autonomous (separate) networks.  Someone or something needs to make the bridges or inter-connections between these networks for the Internet to function as a single entity.  So there a bunch of these Internet Exchange (IX) points scattered all over the world (see list of IX points) that connect up the autonomous networks and provide routes to move traffic between the networks.  Below is an example of a Peering Agreement..

 

Level 3 and XO Communications Sign Settlement-Free Peering Agreement  Jan 7, 2013

BROOMFIELD, Colo., Jan. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Level 3 Communications, Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) and XO Communications today announced they have entered into a long-term settlement-free Internet traffic exchange agreement, also commonly referred to as a peering agreement, that is based on the bit-mile balance approach.

The peering agreement ensures that customers on each of the two Internet service providers’ networks can continue to exchange data with customers on the other service provider’s network efficiently and cost-effectively. It is based on the bit-mile peering approach which measures both the volume of traffic exchanged and the distance over which that traffic is carried by each network. In order to keep the relationship equitable and settlement-free, both networks carry approximately the same bit-miles of data, a model that promotes efficient, high-quality service for customers, while ensuring a balanced cost burden across each network.   More here.. [Level3]

The example above is typical of peering agreements between ISPs, but with content providers the story is a little different.  Content players like Netflix dump huge amounts of traffic on to ISPs networks.  The Bloomberg story says Netflix accounts for 34.9 percent of Web traffic in North America in peak evening hours, according to Sandvine Inc.  The original concept of peering was to provide a mutually beneficial gateway between autonomous systems, you know give and take. 

Netflix have since signed peering deals directly with AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, but they are none too happy about it.  According to Bloomberg, the FCC wants to arbitrate these peering deals on a case-by-case basis, essentially acting as a court of appeals for the peering process.  Surely there is a better way forward than this?

More Here.. [Bloomberg]

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