On Wednesday, network company Level 3 Communications cut off its direct “peering” connections to another big network company called Cogent Communications. That technical action means that some customers on each company’s network now will find it impossible, or slower, to get to Web sites on the other company’s network.
For the first time in its history, the Internet is running a real risk of fracturing into multiple and perhaps even incompatible networks.
At a meeting in Geneva last week, the Bush administration objected to the idea of the United Nations running the top-level servers that direct traffic to the master databases of all domain names.
That’s not new, of course–the administration has been humming this tune since June. What’s changed in the last few months is the response from the rest of the world.
Instead of acquiescing to the Bush administration’s position, the European Union cried foul last week and embraced greater U.N. control. A spokesman said that the EU is “very firm on this position.”
This has been driving me nuts over the past day. I’ve had to go through this server to get to the work servers from my RoadRunner connection. The Level 3 – Cogent fight is almost exactly like the same fight as the Time Warner Cable – Cablevision fight over the Yankee YES Network. Level 3 thinks that Cogent ought to pay for a “transfer” connection, where one pays the other, while Cogent believes it is entitled to have a peering connection, where one swaps connections with another for free.
This is what it is all about, isn’t it: the convergence of pay for play versus share and share alike. Open Source vs. Commercial Software. Copyright vs. Creative Commons. Cable vs. TV. RIAA vs. Peer to Peer. Telephone vs. VOIP. Convergence or crisis?