Level 3 Peering Guidelines

Patrick W. Gilmore patrick at ianai.net
Fri Aug 19 21:40:43 UTC 2011

On Aug 19, 2011, at 4:51 PM, Leo Bicknell wrote:
> In a message written on Fri, Aug 19, 2011 at 04:29:05PM -0400, Adam Rothschild wrote:
>>  http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7021703819
> I like to see Level 3 arguing this with the regulators.  AboveNet
> persued this line of thinking with a number of ISP's in the late
> 1990's with some success, and I believe others did as well.  AboveNet
> implmented it by honoring MEDs from peers, and thus doing a cold
> potato routing and carrying a higher bit-mile cost.

Yes, Above.Net broke the original peering-ratio fight that way.  Thank you for that.  Too bad it didn't last.

> Ratio is the most broken part about modern peering agreements.
> Ratio really has no bearing on the costs to either ISP, it is an
> artifact of their position in the world.  That is to say the type
> of ISP (end user, content) location (urban, rural) or technologies
> (dsl, cable, leased line) along with user behavior determine the
> ratio.  Early ISP's that had similar customer mixes, locations, and
> technologies could use ratio as an easy proxy, but those days are
> long gone.

There are many broken parts of 'modern' peering agreements.

"You must spend as much on your backbone as I spend on mine."  "You must be on at least 3 continents (no matter where the traffic goes to or from)."  "'Peer' means 'equal'."  "You have to be wearing a blue hat when you request peering."  Whatever.

I've said it before, more times than I can count.  Peering is a business tool, a means to an end.  The goal, the 'end', of for-profit companies is to make a profit.  Sounds obvious, but surprising how many people forget this.  If peering with another network will increase your profit and you turn down the peering request, you should be fired.  Your ego should not be substituted for business decisions.

Some people rationalize these decisions (read: "con themselves into believing") by saying if they do not peer with a network, they will gain revenue from that network.  It even works sometimes.  Most of the time it does not work, and in more & more cases ensures no revenue will -ever- flow between the companies.

Just so no one jumps all over me, I am not even hinting that peering requests must always be accepted.  There are rational, business reasons to turn down peering.  But a one-size-fits-all policy is idiotic, as are most of the reasons peering requests are denied these days.

More importantly, the real issue is power (leverage, whatever you want to call it).  In the 90s, all users had to do to switch ISPs is change a few digits in their modem dialer.  Content owners had to do quite a bit more to move a web site between hosting providers.

These days, it is very difficult for end users to change broadband ISPs, frequently requiring equipment changes (e.g. DSL -> Cable), moving phone & TV, etc.  Worse, for many people in the US, they have only one provider who can give them more than 1.5 Mbps.[*]  Content owners can move hosting companies easily.

Not hard to figure out who had more power in the 90s, and who has it now.

> The primary challenge to change is the technical community coming
> up with some metric that is easy to measure and senior management
> can understand.  You can go to a VP and say "the ratio to them is
> 1.5:1" and they get it (or so they think).  Trying to make the same
> argument that on some vague level you are deriving "equal benefit"
> is much larger.  I like Level 3's effort in using the bit-mile cost
> but I don't know any way to measure that metric easily on a large
> network.

Having a metric sr. mgmt can understand will not change which company has power.  Companies that have power -will- exercise it to make money.

L3 is on the wrong side of the power equation today, so they are trying to move the discussion to something that has real business logic.  Their only hope of the leverage some other companies have is to either get the gov't to step in (EWW!), or pray the threat of gov't regulation will be enough.  Dangerous game, if you ask me.


[*] Anyone know what %-age of North American users have multiple choices for real broadband (e.g. > 1.5 Mbps, or even > 4 Mbps as the FCC now defines it)?  I searched, but can't find it.  I can find how many people have > 4 Mbps available, but not more than one choice.

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