A recent battle between AOL and Cogent may indicate the direction that AOL is trying to move in. AOL abruptly decided that Cogent Communications no longer qualified as a "peer" and, thus, could no longer directly connect to their network without paying $75,000/month. When Cogent refused, AOL cut them off, making for very slow connections for anyone using Cogent's network to access AOL content or vice versa. The theory is that AOL was using this as a test-case to start turning their "peering arrangements" into a profit center. The article points out that there's potential for huge future problems if this continues. If the various companies that hold the internet together suddenly decide that they won't connect to each other any more, the internet could splinter.
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