A Practical Navigator for the Internet Economy

LEVEL 3 BUILDING 16,000 MILE FIBER NETWORK TO LINK URBAN BUSINESSES AS DID MFS

UPGRADABLE STATE OF THE ART NETWORK TO BRING MOORE'S LAW TO IMPACT TELECOMMUNICATIONS COST, pp. 1- 5

We interviewed Jack Waters, Level 3 Vice President of Engineering, about Level 3's plans which, as was the case with MFS, include linking urban businesses with high speed TCP/IP inter city transport. Unlike MFS, Level 3 will become its own inter-city carrier via a 16,000 route mile national fiber network. It will use Peter Kewit & Sons to build the network along the rights of way of Burlington Northern, and Santa Fe Railway as well as, the Union Pacific.

Level 3, which is leasing fiber from Frontier, while it builds out its own fiber, is a year and a half behind Qwest in the construction that it is about to begin. Unlike Qwest, it will directly connect large urban buildings to its inter-city network. It will lay at least 6 conduits to make its network easily upgradable.

While Waters agreed that Level 3's LEAF fiber could run without SONET, he points out that SONET will be there, for the most part, because of the mission critical nature of Level 3's voice traffic. (In talking to others we have ascertained that SONET will also be installed ubiquitously, when it otherwise would not be needed, because DWDM technology pushes so much bandwidth through a single strand, that SONET is needed to allow carriers to provision pipes of sizes smaller than OC- 192. For example, OC-12 and OC-3 represent bandwidth that could not be provisioned without SONET muxing and demuxing equipment.)

Level 3 will be using its leased fiber to begin offering voice and IP data traffic by the fall. Its plan is to make its network steadily upgradable in order to take advantage of the latest capabilities and cheaper prices driven by Moore's Law. Level 3 will be heavily involved in IP-based telephony that it will be able to offer for a fraction of circuit switched prices.

The company intends to create an infrastructure that first and foremost interconnects with the current PSTN at a peer level. According to Waters: when one thinks about peering with the PSTN, one must be thinking about connecting to the PSTN at the edge - - much in the same way that a CLEC would interconnect to the PSTN today. "We think that it is very important not to change user behavior when creating this new infrastructure and offering our services over it," he says. "Therefore Level 3 is not talking about dialing around the PSTN or anything like you may see today with voice services using Internet style technology. It is talking about connecting directly to the PSTN and offering voice over IP service not dependent on anything like auto dialer's or pin codes that would involve a significant change in user behavior."

In this context, Level 3's most important early contribution to the market place may be the TAC effort launched on June 22. The Technical Advisory Committee composed of eleven premier hardware and software companies plus Level 3, was formed to develop a set of technical standards to bridge current circuit based PSTN and emerging IP networks. The protocol is expected to be published, as well as submitted to global standards bodies including ITU, ETSI and IETF within the next two weeks. The TAC is hoping for rapid adoption by the standards bodies. Member companies intend to begin shipping products based on the IPDC protocol by year's end. Readers may expect more about this in the September COOK Report.

PEERING CONTINUES TO PERPLEX

NO NEW PEERING AMONG PRIVATELY INTERCONNECTED BACKBONES IN MORE THAN YEAR - ADJUDICATION OF COMPLEX ISSUES TEMPTING BUT UNLIKELY TO PRODUCE POSITIVE RESULTS FOR THE INDUSTRY pp. 6 - 13

Peering continues to be a messy situation. Undoubtedly, the big five, as early entrants to the Internet game, have advantages even over extremely well-financed upstarts such as Level 3 and Qwest. Furthermore, given the sorry state of public exchanges, the only way for new players to get adequate connectivity and performance is to either be privately peered or become customers at multiple points. We believe that the worst features of the current situation are twofold: the secrecy in which peering is shrouded by non disclosure agreements and the fact that there are no generally accepted rules. These two features can combine in insidious ways to cause newcomers to the market to fear that they are being cheated. We hope that some way to alleviate these problems can be found. As the discussion that follows shows, while the position of the big five is defensible, the murkiness of the world in which it exists creates a temptation for those who are locked out to pursue legal action. While we still sympathize with the smaller players, we are leery of legal action being able to produce any result other than moves that will lead to the regulation of the Internet.

We republish a lengthy discussion from the Cybertelecom law list. Requiring that peering agreements be published is seen as one way to blunt the anti-competitive aspects of the current situation. This suggestion is made that peering arrangements are part of the terms and conditions under which backbone providers are offering TELECOMMUNICATIONS services as defined in the Communications Act. According to a list member: "they undertake to ship data of the user's choosing (packets from the user's own customers) to the places the user wants them to go (the addresses indicated on the packets) with no net change of form, content, etc. If this is true then peering arrangements are subject at least to regulation and probably to actual tariffing." After much discussion, the consensus was that peering really doesn't fit in such a Procrustean bed.

DYNAMICAL OPTICAL SWITCHING NOT YET ON HORIZON FOR OPTICAL NETWORKS pp. 13, 24

In a Letter to the Editor discussion, Mike Trest and Bill St Arnaud both agree that the new optical backbones will be fast and dumb.

PROBLEMS IN EXCHANGE OF INTERNET TRAFFIC AND NETWORK PERFORMANCE ISSUES DEBATED -- HOW TO KEEP LOCAL TRAFFIC LOCAL? IS METERING AN ANSWER? pp. 14- 16

Discussion of benefits of local interconnection and problems of assessing distance sensitive charging or any other kinds of metering.

WHO SETS OPERATIONAL ROUTING POLICY? pp. 16, 20

Some complaints from Australia about the obscure ways in which global routing policy is set.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS & WITH IANA BACKING USPS FLOATS PLAN TO TAKE OVER .US TLD --KAHIN AND IANA SUPPORT ATTEMPT TO OFFER ALL CITIZENS ELECTRONIC MAILBOX IN CONTEXT OF CONTINUED NON DISCLOSURE BY BURR'S TASK FORCE AND ITAG pp. 17-20

We publish the US Postal Service's Confidential Memo detailing why it wants control of the .us domain. We complain that USPS and IANA should be discussing this policy in public. We debunk false Internet.news (MecklerMedia) report of alleged discussion of USPS plans at Reston GIAW meeting. We conclude with cautiously optimistic meeting assessment. This meeting has become the first of a series to be held during the next six weeks to attempt to establish consensus for the by laws and make-up of the Board of the new IANA corporation. It now looks much less likely that ISOC and Jon Postel's ITAC can impose its own design on the Internet as a fate accompli.

SEAN DORAN SUPPORTS RED AS INTERNET'S MOST IMPORTANT BANDWIDTH MANAGEMENT TOOL p. 20

Sean Doran explains his efforts to implement RED and shows the benefits that result.

WORLDCOM'S PROPOSED DIVESTITURE OF MCI BACKBONE FOUND WANTING IN LIST DISCUSSION p. 21

An extremely perceptive discussion in which Sean Donelan states: MCI is selling C&W the most expensive portion of their customer base. ISP/wholesale customers tend to be the least loyal, and have the highest line utilization and most complex routing configurations. Which in a fixed-rate environment translates into the highest cost/revenue = lowest profit ratio. Since this is the reverse of how most telco regulators think, I don't know how this will go over. In the telco world, high usage customers are good things because more minutes of use means more dollars of revenue. But in the Internet world ISP customers are a good way to boost your backbone usage, but they also boost your backbone expenses ALOT. On the other hand, corporate customers (which MCI isn't selling) tend to be the most profitable, sometimes only using a part of their circuits from 8-5 during the day. And most corporate customers tend to be reluctant to change providers.

Given the July 8 EC announcement, however, it looks as though MCI might be forced to do a full divestiture of its backbone business.

SPRINT'S INTEGRATED ON DEMAND NETWORK ASSESSED p. 22

Discussion on the NANOG list finds the concept interesting but notes that details of implementation are unlikely to become clear before next year.