some implications of provider scaling

Randy Bush randy at
Sun Dec 5 19:26:27 UTC 1999

[ i am most definitely not speaking for my daytime job.  and note change
  of subject: ]

> I'd disagree whole-heartedly (partly because I am not a huge, national
> tier-1).


> Wouldn't you rather connect your equipment to a smaller company, that is
> potentially more flexible, has more clueful people, has better pricing,
> and is multihomed to maybe 3 or 6 or 9 backbones?

flexibility granted, and with it a more personal touch etc.  this is good
and can be a real benefit, especially to the smaller customer who needs the
high-touch support.

this discussion certainly has not demonstrated that smaller isps have more
clueful people, and is not something i would recommend a small isp show to
a prospective customer.  while i often feel under-clued, i continue to be
impressed at the level of clue at many of the biggest players.  most have
become soooo clueful that they no longer participate in discussions such as
this <g>.

given that tier-N, where N>=2, providers have to pay more for routing (be
it transit or 'paid peering', which is just limited transit), the assertion
that they have a price advantage would seem to assume that overall per-unit
costs increase with scale, as opposed to decrease.  as this goes against
the models of most industries, it warrants explanation.

the big providers connect to all other significant providers.  and with
very hefty bandwidth at many points.  it's not a conspiracy, it's what we
have to do to move the traffic.

in the long run, this industry will be owned by a extremely few very large
international players, all or almost all telephants.  not that i like this,
even though i helped build one of the eight tier one isps.  it goes against
my leftist upbringing.  but i fear it is reality.

i suspect that, in the long run, the only difference between the internet
and the railroads, telegraphs, telephants, aerospace, etc. is that many
more of the startup working folk have made real money from it.  so someone
goofed, but not so significantly that it will be noticed in the long run.


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