TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Dispute Leads to Internet Woes for Thousands of Users

Dispute Leads to Internet Woes for Thousands of Users

Andy Sullivan (
Fri, 7 Oct 2005 20:53:38 -0500

By Andy Sullivan

Thousands of Internet users struggled to send e-mail and keep their
Web sites running on Thursday after a dispute between two service
providers left large portions of the Internet unable to talk to each

Computer technicians scrambled to shore up their networks after Level
3 Communications Inc. refused to accept traffic from rival Cogent
Communications Group Inc., rendering large portions of the Internet
unreachable by others.

"We weren't able to get to our e-mail systems, we weren't able to get
to our externally hosted chat systems," said Bob Serr, chief
technology officer at Chicago instant-messaging provider Parlano
Inc. "Some customers say they've had trouble getting to our Web site."

The rift meant that thousands of customers -- including individuals
who use Time Warner Inc.'s Road Runner cable-modem service -- were not
able to view Web sites and send e-mail to servers located on the other
company's network, violating the Internet's premise as a universal,
borderless network of computers.

The dispute affects roughly 15 percent to 17 percent of the Internet,
Cogent CEO Dave Schaeffer said.

"The usability and value people get out of the Internet is highly
dependent on its ability to be ubiquitous and affordable, and I think
what Level 3 is attempting to do is undermine both of those core
principles," he said in an interview.


Like other large, wholesale Internet service providers, Cogent and
Level 3 handed off traffic from one network to each other free of
charge, until Level 3 said that it was handling too much Cogent

"We felt that there was an imbalance and we were disadvantaged in that
relationship and we were ending up with what amounts to free capacity,"
Level 3 spokeswoman Jennifer Daumler said.

Cogent's Schaeffer said Level 3 was simply trying to get Cogent to
raise its prices, which at $10 per megabit are far below the market
average of $60 or so per megabit.

Larger customers of each company have been little affected by the
dispute because they usually sign agreements with several different
wholesale providers.

But customers who rely entirely on either provider for their Internet
connections would not be able to reach any Web sites or servers on the
others' network, those involved in the dispute said.

That would include law firms, community colleges and companies like
Parlano, which face lost business and angry customers from the outage.

"It's kind of a game of chicken to see who's going to blink first, and
to see whose customer base wants connectivity to the other customers'
more," said Alan Mauldin, an analyst at TeleGeography Research in

Parlano's Serr said he would stick with Cogent as his provider for the
time being because he saw Level 3's move as "strong-arm tactics."

Road Runner said its customers have not been able to visit Web sites
and send e-mail to Cogent customers.

"We are working to find alternate pathways so our customers can be
connected with these Web sites as soon as possible," Road Runner said
in a statement.

Representatives for America Online Inc., EarthLink Inc. and Microsoft
Corp.'s MSN service said their customers have not been affected by the

Cogent ran into a similar dispute with America Online several years
ago but it was resolved amicably, AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said.

Cogent said it was offering Level 3 customers affected by the dispute
a year of free service if they wished to switch providers. Level 3
said it was working with its customers to ensure they could reach the
entire Internet.

"Level 3 is working with their customers and Cogent needs to work with
its customers," Level 3's Daumler said. "If Cogent wants to make its
customers happy they've got to figure out a way to get that
connectivity to the Internet."

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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