WorldCom/MCI Merger - Backbone Monopoly?

Michael Dillon michael at
Mon Nov 17 17:53:38 UTC 1997

>  Say, for
>argument, that WorldCom/MCI merger will result in its control of
>60% of the Internet's backbone traffic (measured, perhaps, as a
>percentage of IP packets taken from all ingress "access ISPs"
>and provided to all egress "access ISPs").

This "if" is just too big to be meaningful. I dispute that the number is as
high as 60%. I also dispute the use of the word "control" since carrying
Internet traffic does not imply any sort of control. If you are looking for
control points, look to the web server operators and content providers like
CNN and Yahoo. I also dispute your proposal for measuring "the Internet's
backbone traffic". There is no doubt that the figures you suggest measuring
would be interesting figures but I think it is grossly incorrect to
characterize them as "the Internet's backbone traffic" and I know that it
is currently impossible to come anywhere near to measuring these figures.

Basically the fears of dominance are unfounded for a variety of reasons.
One is that the Internet is still growing at a tremendous rate and it is
well nigh impossible to dominate something that is on such a growth curve.
It's hard enough just to keep up. Another reason to have no fear is that
new entrants are continually entering the various markets for backbone
circuits and it is always possible that a new upstart will take over.
Studying the history of radio in the twenties and thirties will point out
some possibilities. But the biggest reason to have no fear is that
integrated diverse companies into one company or diverse networks into one
network is very, very hard to do. This merger is not a shoe-in. Many of us
have had dealings with one or more of the merged companies, we know people
who work for these companies, we have friends in the industry who have
business dealings with these companies. They have a lot of problems to work
through and so far they are not doing as well as they need to be in order
to successfully execute such a merger.

Some other companies appear to be doing a better job at integrating
acquisitions and those are the ones I would watch closely in the future.

> Does, for
>example, Qwest's planned deployment of a fiber infrastructure
>to become the "World's Biggest Internet Backbone" (WebWeek,
>Vol. 3, Issue 37, Nov. 10, 1997, p. 1) make such fears unfounded?

Qwest is really a whole different animal. They are putting glass in the
ground and selling it to other companies who want to transfer IP packets
through that glass. The key thing here is that Qwest's deployment has just
about erased fears of an impending fiber shortage. We still may have
problems in certain areas but on the whole it now appears that there will
be plenty of glass to light up when we need it. And Qwest is not the only
company doing this.

Michael Dillon                    voice: +1-650-482-2840
Senior Systems Architect            fax: +1-650-482-2844

"The People You Know.  The People You Trust."

More information about the NANOG mailing list