Peering Dispute Between Cogent, Sprint

8 comments

Many customers of Sprint-Nextel and Cogent Communications are likely to be inconvenienced by a peering dispute between the two companies. Almost all major  peering disputes these days seem to involve Cogent (CCOI), which has had earlier high-profile network spats with Telia,  Limelight Networks, Level 3France Telecom and AOL. This time, Cogent was quick to point the finger at Sprint, issuing a press release shortly after the de-peering occurred.

“On October 30 at 4:30 pm Sprint-Nextel severed its Internet connection to Cogent thereby partitioning the Internet,” Cogent states. “It is no longer possible for many Sprint customers and Cogent customers to directly communicate across the Internet. Sprint did so in violation of a contractual obligation to exchange Internet traffic with Cogent on a settlement free peering basis. Sprint and Cogent are engaged in litigation over this matter.”

It’s the “settlement free” bit that is at the heart of the dispute. Peering allows providers to exchange traffic with one another at no cost (or low cost) by establishing direct connections between their networks, instead of routing traffic across the public Internet. Peering is often free as long as the amount of traffic exchanged is not out of balance, providing substantial cost savings for bandwidth for high-traffic sites and networks.

But when that balance of traffic between peering partners gets out of whack, someone usually wants to get paid. In this case, the circumstances suggest that it’s Sprint. Cogent has always been known for its aggressive pricing, and in June it slashed prices even further in a bid to gain market share.

That doesn’t make Cogent popular with other network operators, as CEO Dave Schaffer noted during the Telia dispute, saying other providers “have been reluctant peers with us.”

Who’ll be affected? We’ll hear the howling soon as customers realize what’s happened. An example: the Cogent-Telia dispute caused major grief for gamers whose ISPs relied solely on Cogent, who found they couldn’t access World of Warcraft. 

At the heart of it, peering disputes are really loud business negotiations, and angry customers can be used as leverage by either side. This one will end as they always do, with one side agreeing to pay up or manage their traffic differently.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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8 Comments

  1. mattt

    You know who else is howling? Lawyers trying to file papers in federal court through a web-based service called Pacer. Apparently, if one's ISP is Cogent, that isn't possible anymore.

  2. For those unfamiliar with the service, PACER is the online gateway that provides access to federal court documents. I used it a lot back in the days when there were a lot of data center bankruptcies to write about. Fortunately, haven't had to do much of that lately ...

  3. Rich, You summarized this incident perfectly. -Jesse Robbins O'Reilly Radar

  4. Robert Sobelman

    I thought Internet traffic was supposed to be rerouted and so not dependent on one specific peer-point . I realize the Internet is "uregulated", but isn't there a higher authority to appeal to (FCC, FTC) to register complaints with?

  5. @Robert, unfortunately, no entity can force them to start peering again. Internet traffic is re-routed assuming that one wasn't depending solely on Sprint or Cogent. Lets say you get your Internet from Cogent and Level3, then your fine because Level3 can still get to Sprint.

  6. Dylan

    My biggest complain is that neither Sprint or Cogent notified us and we are customers of both. I only found out when a vendor forwarded me this article after I had been yelling at him all day about their product not working. Oops.

  7. This is also affecting on-line banking!!! Cannot access my accounts.

  8. gerry

    Several of my second level domains are hosted by PUREHOST ( a Cogent customer)...combined with my the fact that my laptop's email client uses a wireless data card from SPRINT means that I'm up a creek without a paddle. I was further frustrated that while PUREHOST's customer service was at least able to acknowledge the problem with a bit of finger pointing, SPRINT's customer service was trying to tell me that something was wrong with my internet security settings. AGGGHHHH!!!