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October 05, 2005

Why Isn't Blacking Out the Internet a Crime?

Some of you may have noticed that a some websites are not loading from your computer.

That's because a couple of large Internet players are at war with each other and deliberately blacking out portions of the Internet for many people by refusing to share Internet traffic. See this story:

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.
If companies have a billing dispute with each other, they should go to court. The whole system of "voluntary" peering, where big companies can bully smaller ones over traffic sharing deals is a disaster waiting to happen.

Few people recognize that Internet connections can be cut off at the whims of these large corporate backbones. The sharing of messages and traffic over the Internet is an odd ecology and there are bound to be disputes. But companies shouldn't be allowed to settle them through blacking out portions of the Internet as a form of powerplay. If companies can't figure out a way to settle this through alternative means, then it's long past time for the government to impose the same kinds of rules and regulations every other public utility operates under.

A lot more discussion on the issue here.

Posted by Nathan at October 5, 2005 10:35 PM