Internet: eXchange Points, Peering

Historic Role Of The Commercial Internet eXchange Router And Its Impact On
The Development Of Internet eXchange Points [IXs]i

Introduction

The world’s first commercial Internet exchange point was set up more than a decade ago
between March and October 1991. The Commercial Internet eXchange or CIX was established
on the principle of open competition on a level playing field between large and small operators.
The CIX was also a proponent of self-regulation of the Internet industry. Since that time Internet
eXchange Points (IXPs) have grown to more than one hundred and fifty worldwide with a variety
of interconnection policies and technologies employed. Perhaps now is a good time to reflect on
the lessons of the past and to look to the future.
In the early 1990’s all of the countries of the Americas were required to connect to an Internet
backbone service provider in the United States in order to have their traffic carried to users on
other networks. Sometimes these other networks were in the same country. Absurdly inefficient
routing carried traffic thousands of kilometers across the oceans to sometimes deliver it a few
kilometers from its point of origination! The reason for this was that competing networks were not
willing to inter-connect locally. This was the same for other regions of the world such as Europe,
Asia, the Middle East and Africa. New IXPs emerged as the rationale for exchanging Internet
traffic locally (within a country) or regionally became economically compelling for ISPs that
otherwise perceived each other as competitors. Equally important is that these circumstances
created policy pressures for changes in the way Internet traffic might have otherwise been
regulated in these countries. Though there are specific regional characteristics, local and country
specific issues that have generated special conditions for the development of IXPs in the
Americas, their overall growth has been generally comparable to that of other regions.
There are already several IXPs in the Americas. In Argentina (CABASE), Brazil (ANSP,
Laboratório Nacional de Computação Científica LNCC, Embratel, GT-ER-PIR), Chile (NAP
CHILE), Colombia (NAP of Columbia), Panama (NAP Panamericano SA – Panama, InterRED –
Panama) and Peru (NAP Peru). Most other countries in the Americas are planning or actively
considering establishing IXPs. These Americas IXPs today implement a variety of interconnection
policies including multilateral and bilateral peering. There is also an evident interest regulation
mandating interconnection between service providers. Whether one of these approaches will
emerge as the dominant interconnection policy is still to be determined. It may well be that
different approaches will be applicable at local, national, regional and international levels.
Perhaps, we are now at a watershed in the economic development of the Internet. The impact of
this year’s collapse of the telecommunications sector in the stock market has forced consideration
of significant changes in the outlook for traditional carrier based services. In the future these
services will include Internet Protocol as core network infrastructure thus raising new challenges
for policy, consideration of regulation and the impact of new technology. One of impacts of these
changes may be to redefine the future operation and regulation of IXPs in the global Internet
infrastructure.

In early 1991 PSInet, UUNET and CERFNETii formed the basis of what became the Commercial
Internet eXchange [CIX], the world’s first commercial Internet eXchange Point. Up to then Internet
traffic was still largely associated with research and education (R&E) traffic.
At this time these three networks together with ANS were the only national level commercial ISPs
in the United States. PSInet hosted the CIX router in its Bay Area POP and soon the group was
joined by Sprint, the first of the carriers to deploy a national commercial Internet service. At that
time the US government funded National Science Foundation (NSF) Network, NSFNET was the
Internet backbone and the traffic that could be carried on it was restricted to non-commercial
purposes under an Acceptable Use Policy [AUP]. The NSFNET was operated by a consortium
called Merit, created under the auspices of the University of Michigan together with IBM and MCI.
Merit, IBM and MCI subsequently created Advanced Network Services [ANS] to operate and
manage the NSFNET for the US Government under the terms of the National Science
Foundation grant.


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