Why don't ISPs peer with everyone?

Robert F Maxwell rmaxwell at umd.edu
Tue Jun 7 14:44:53 UTC 2011

I'd like to foster a discussion here to better understand this, not rile anyone up.  That said, what I see so far is a representation of those who do not recall the halcyon days before a rabid profit motive was the driving force behind ISPs. 

Peering in it's original sense is/was free. It was a swap of traffic. That profit motive has created the phrase "settlement free peering" to refer to the original definition so it seems like the free swap of traffic is the aberration. The big ISPs used to seek to balance content hosting and the customer load to avoid having to pay for any sort of transit. AOL was known to acquire companies which had huge downstream traffic for this purpose. 

Now we see ISPs waging an economic war with content providers wanting to find a way to charge, say, Google for allowing them to to pass their YouTube content along to the ISP's subscribers. This is the result of letting non-technical, profit-driven managers run the show and not the usually eager to cooperate network engineers who actually understand how this stuff works. 

The problem here is that the closer you are to the end user, the harder you're getting screwed, and not in a good way. The very large ISPs are doing real peering, and charging smaller, end-user focused ISPs high transit rates so that they can't possibly compete on price with the inferior, customer-service-impaired ISP end-user offerings. The US government has declined to enforce any sort of rule which might require the huge ISPs to grant wholesale-type access to their physical networks (for better or worse depending on your POV) or examine any of this cartel-type behavior under the light of monopoly rules. 

So please, short of socialism, and in light of the rampant legislation-for-sale culture in our government (how many FCC commissioners get jobs with huge ISPs?) how do we fix this?

Please note: I'm not advocating socialism. I might advocate regulation a la public utilities. There is universal agreement that the internet is "critical infrastructure." deregulating other utilities hasn't been uniformly successful, especially when measured from the consumers' point of view. Thoughts?


Sent from my iPad, so I can't have a fun sig.

On Jun 7, 2011, at 10:00 AM, "Jon Lewis" <jlewis at lewis.org> wrote:

> On Tue, 7 Jun 2011 bmanning at vacation.karoshi.com wrote:
>> in this context, anyone who is a BGP speaker is an ISP.
> Peering costs money.  The transit bandwidth saved by peering with another 
> network may not be sufficient to cover the cost of installing and 
> maintaining whatever connections are necessary to peer.  Then there's the 
> big networks who really don't want to peer with anyone other than 
> similarly sized big networks...everyone else should be their transit 
> customer.
> I manage a network that's primarily a hosting network.  There's a similar 
> hosting network at the other end of the building.  We both have multiple 
> gigs of transit.  We don't peer with each other.  Perhaps we should, 
> because the cost of the connection would be negligible (I think we already 
> have multiple fiber pairs between our suites), but looking at my sampled 
> netflow data, I'm guessing we average about 100kbit/s or less traffic in 
> each direction between us.  At that low a level, is it even worth the time 
> and trouble to coordinate setting up a peering connection, much less 
> tying up a gigE port at each end?
> Anyone from hostdime reading this?  :)
> If so, what are your thoughts?
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>  Jon Lewis, MCP :)           |  I route
>  Senior Network Engineer     |  therefore you are
>  Atlantic Net                |
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