Observations of an Internet Middleman (Level3) (was: RIP

Keenan Tims ktims at stargate.ca
Thu May 15 20:17:22 UTC 2014

Their existing agreements notwithstanding, I believe the problem many have with Comcast's balanced ratio requirement is that they have 10s of millions of customers, all or almost all of whom are sold "unbalanced" services. In addition the majority of their customers are end users, who are also going to bias toward heavily inbound patterns (which is one of the reasons for the asymmetric connections in the first place).

As primarily an eyeball network with a token (8000 quoted) number of transit customers it does not seem reasonable for them to expect balanced ratios on peering links. They are, effectively by their own choice of market, always going to have a heavily inbound traffic ratio. It seems to me that requiring anything else is basically a way to give the finger to a potential peer while claiming to be neutral. I find it hard to believe that Comcast would be running many balanced links (peering or transit) at all, except perhaps to other consumer ISPs.

In today's environment there are inevitably going to be heavily inbound and heavily outbound networks. Content networks don't have any problem with SFI despite their ratio. Eyeball networks do. Both are in the position they are because of the line of business they have respectively chosen. But the eyeball network is the only one that is explicitly and exclusively paid *to carry traffic*. IMO if the content network is willing to bring their content, for free, to the eyeball network's edge, this is to the benefit of the eyeball network more than content, in the absence of other "factors".

In this case that factor appears to me to be "ad-hoc oligopoly". If customers had options and an easy path to switch, they would not tolerate this behaviour when they can switch to a competitor who provides good service for the bits they request. Content would gain a lot of leverage in this situation as they could help "educate" customers on alternatives, automatically and without paying a support agent. Of course we should be careful not to let the opposite situation occur either...


From: NANOG <nanog-bounces at nanog.org> on behalf of Scott Helms <khelms at zcorum.com>
Sent: May 15, 2014 12:54 PM
To: Joe Greco
Cc: nanog at nanog.org
Subject: Re: Observations of an Internet Middleman (Level3) (was: RIP

On Thu, May 15, 2014 at 3:05 PM, Joe Greco <jgreco at ns.sol.net> wrote:

> > So by extension, if you enter an agreement and promise to remain
> balanced y=
> > ou can just willfully throw that out and abuse the heck out of it? Where
> do=
> > es it end? Why even bother having peering policies at all then?
> It doesn't strike you as a ridiculous promise to extract from someone?

You could certainly say its ridiculous, but it is (and has been) the basis
for almost all peering arrangements in North America for several decades in
my personal experience.  I believe that the practice came from the telco
world when large telephone companies would exchange traffic without billing
each other so long as the traffic was relatively balanced.  You can imagine
AT&T and Sprint exchange toll traffic and so long as things we're fairly
close there wasn't a big imbalance of traffic to worry the financial folks
over and thus having to do exact accounting on each minute, which was
technically challenging 30 years ago.

"Hi I'm an Internet company.  I don't actually know what the next big
> thing next year will be but I promise that I won't host it on my network
> and cause our traffic to become lopsided."
> Wow.  Is that what you're saying?

That's not what happened.  What happened is that Netflix went to Level 3
who already had a peering arrangement with Comcast which was built around
normal (roughly) balanced peering.  It had been in place for years before
Netflix signed with Level 3 and worked, and was contracted this way, around
relatively balanced traffic.  Once Netflix started sending most of their
traffic destined to Comcast end user through Level 3 things got out of
balance.  Netflix still has a contract with Cogent (I believe that is the
correct one) or other provider that had previously been handling the bulk
of the Comcast directed traffic, but the Level 3 connection was cheaper for
Netflix.  If anyone actually acted in bad faith it was, IMO, Level 3.

> > To use an analogy, if you and I agree to buy a car together and agree to
> sw=
> > itch off who uses it every other day, can I just say "forget our
> agreement =
> > =96 I=92m just going to drive the car myself every single day =96 its
> all m=
> > ine=94?
> Seems like a poor analogy since I'm pretty sure both parties on a peering
> can use the port at the same time.

His point was you can't simply change a contract without having both
parties involved.  Level 3 tried to do just that.

> ... JG
> --
> Joe Greco - sol.net Network Services - Milwaukee, WI - http://www.sol.net
> "We call it the 'one bite at the apple' rule. Give me one chance [and]
> then I
> won't contact you again." - Direct Marketing Ass'n position on e-mail
> spam(CNN)
> With 24 million small businesses in the US alone, that's way too many
> apples.

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