News You Could Do Without

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
infrastructure, internet, peering

cogent, sprint

Sprint And Cogent Remind Us That The Internet Is Held Together With Handshakes And Duct Tape

from the peer-this dept

It seems that every few years we have some sort of story of a major internet provider cutting off another major internet provider over a disagreement concerning peering arrangements. More often than not, one of the companies involved in such disputes is Cogent, who seems to get on a lot of other firms nerves by (they claim) using more than their fair share. It's happening again, as Sprint has cut off Cogent, meaning that plenty of broadband users are having trouble reaching certain websites.

Every time this happens, it reminds us all how fragile the internet is, not because of any bandwidth crunch, but because the overall network really only works thanks to the fact that all of the big internet providers agree to share traffic across their networks through "peering" arrangements, some of which are more informal than others. The problem is that these peering arrangements are supposed to be just that: about "peers" agreeing to share traffic for the betterment of everyone. But, when you have a company like Cogent, who focuses on being just a dumb pipe that sells as much bandwidth as possible at very low levels, then the other peers start to feel that it's unfair. Cogent ends up dumping a lot more traffic on them than they do on Cogent. In this case, Sprint is claiming that Cogent failed to meet the terms of a signed agreement for peering, and has since refused to pay to keep connecting to its network, hence the shut off. Cogent, for its part, is using this mess as something of a PR opportunity, offering free internet connections to Sprint customers during this Sprint outage and saying that all other major carriers have full connectivity to Cogent.

In the end, like all of the other disputes, this one will get worked out and the internet will continue to function -- but it still is worrisome that much of the internet really is reliant on these companies agreeing to continue to play nice with each other.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Matt, Oct 31st, 2008 @ 2:26pm


    If Sprint doesn't want to peer with Cogent, it shouldn't be a big deal. Why doesn't Sprint just route Cogent-bound traffic through one of their other peers like they should? Are they just black-holing Cogent traffic to be assholes?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Nicholas Overstreet (profile), Oct 31st, 2008 @ 2:35pm

    Re: Routing?

    There are a lot of Web Hosting companies who get their main service through Cogent.
    While those hosting companies technically should have a secondary line to prevent things like this from effecting their business, they don't.
    No Sprint customers are able to access any web sites or servers hosted on Cogent's network.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Brian, Oct 31st, 2008 @ 2:50pm

    Matt is right about the blackholing. But there is a reson.

    I have seen exactly this happen 3 times before with cogent, and the problem is exactly what you suggest, one or both of the ISP involved in the dispute are refusing to allow Traffic to re-route through a 3rd peer as it would put there peering arrangement with the 3rd peer in jeopardy. Also it would eliminate the pressure on cogent. I would like to know what cogent is or is not doing exactly that is always pissing of the other ISPs. Does cogent have lots of co-located servers and no end users or the other way around? Or do they not have a substantial backbone of there own?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    another mike, Oct 31st, 2008 @ 2:55pm

    would this be net neutrality,

    or more simple network availability?
    Look, it's not that I mind companies having these little lovers' spats, but when it starts to interfere with operations it's time to cut it the heck out.
    I just got some snail mail spam from Sprint congratulating me on being such a good sucker, er customer, for the last little while and that I was eligible to renew my contract with a new phone. I'm going to the T-Mobile store to get my G1 tomorrow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Count Floyd, Oct 31st, 2008 @ 3:04pm

    Masnick Halloween Costume: Legal Reporter


    The Patent hater whose ass backwards logic scares me EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR.

    Look for some logic in your candy bag, Mike. Then eat it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2008 @ 3:13pm

    Re: Masnick Halloween Costume: Legal Reporter

    I love trolls like this. The fact that they fail at basic English reading comprehension but can still type in a grammatically correct style just strikes me as terribly ironic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Count Chocula, Oct 31st, 2008 @ 3:34pm

    They don't put nobodies on cereal boxes!

    The Duct tape analogy makes too much sense.

    In the late 1990s, I was working on a business's website, and due to some spaff around a peering agreement (like this) the site went dark and caused a lot of headaches for my client.

    So out of this hokum and malarkey, it's smart to seek out ISPs that have multiple peers, and companies that don't rely on just one handshake.

    At home, my current ISP has 4 peering arrangements to their DC over fiber.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    inc, Oct 31st, 2008 @ 3:38pm

    It's funny how p2p is under so much attack when the basically the is one big p2p network.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Phil, Oct 31st, 2008 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Masnick Halloween Costume: Legal Reporter

    Count Floyd -- What's this little rant have to do with bandwidth, ISP's and routing of internet traffic. Did you actually even read the post?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Joe Frain, Nov 2nd, 2008 @ 10:18am

    Caught between

    Try to reach me at the above e-mail or via my website and I won't be able to receive your e-mail. If you would like, try

    I am caught between because Embarq is my dsl provider and is my web site host. Called both. Embarq says it is out of their hands. Addr just prety much mumbled something about problems.

    Have been with several years with a genealogy and a business website. Guess what. 75% of my communications goes thru

    From my point of view I am going to have to search for a different host for my web sites. Boy, that is something I wish was not necessary. Cogent bears the brunt of any blame for this dispute.

    Bottom line. No one takes ownership of the problem,

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Freeware, May 9th, 2009 @ 5:35am

    Mike/anyone?! I can't actually believe issues like this are allowed to exist!. I am currently experiencing major issues with our server in the states at the moment after noticing a major drop in visitors and it turns out it's the issue again. Basically, most people from the UK on AOL, Virgin Media and Plusnet are not able to get to my site. Simiarly, from the server we cannot reach certain websites required for our file hosting because they route through I know this topic may no longer be alive but I'm wondering if anyone can offer a contact in which we can raise or complain about this as one replier noted it's one thing to have their tiffs, but it's another when their spats cause people such as us to suffer through no fault of our own!.
    Thanks in advance

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Counces (profile), Sep 16th, 2012 @ 11:56am


    What "big network" are you referring to?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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