Print 

FASTNET: A REGIONAL ISP BUSINESS MODEL -- TELECOM DEREGULATION IMPACT ON ISP MARKET, WHAT ISPS MUST DO IN ORDER TO PROSPER, pp. 1-8

We interview Dave Van Allen, CEO of FASTNET, a regional ISP in with operations currently in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. While FASTNET offers dial-up access, its business model focuses on providing reliable leased-line and web-hosting services to corporations. Being multi-homed to four different national service providers, it says to business customers that it can route around any failures at the national level. For mission critical applications it suggests that its customers take two FASTNET connections where each connection uses a different LEC service such as point-to-point leased line, or frame relay or SMDS. Van Allen says that he can save his customers money by multi-homing to the nationals on their behalf. He also points out that if FASTNET tried to become a national provider itself, this model would break down.

Moving on to discussions of the regulatory environment, he points out that many small ISPs don't pay adequate attention to those aspects of the business environment within which they will have to operate. He explains the rise and fall of Bell Atlantic's Centrex Extend service in Pennsylvania - noting that the disappearance of this tariff may be causing significant problems for ISPs which had counted on its availability to bring virtual pops to customers.

Van Allen is optimistic about the effect on the well-managed ISP of the competitive climate created by the 1996 Telecom Deregulation Act. He points out that he will be able to pull connections across LATA boundaries more cost effectively and adds that he is already getting some of his dial up service, NPA and NXX (area code and first three digits) from a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC).

He warns strenuously against ISPs assuming that they can survive by doing only 20 dollar a month dial-up. He also asserts that those who discount the 20 dollar figure significantly will likely find that they do not have the capital to replace analogue dial-up technology with digital (PRIs plugged into Ascend MAX 4000's and the like). This, he believes, will be necessary in order to avoid major price increases that the RBOCs are likely to win against ISPs that continue to pull ordinary phone lines from the LEC's Central Office. We shall be doing some additional ISP business model interviews. The next will be with Frontier Net.

PEERING & TRANSIT -- COMPLEX ISSUE LEAVES MOST UNHAPPY, pp. 9 - 19

From the NANOG list we have edited what is the best discussion we have yet seen of the state of this critical and murky issue. Calling for a clearer demarcation between peering and transit, William Simpson began the discussion by adding "the current technology used at the exchange points could encourage abuse. What is to stop anyone connected to an exchange from simply dumping packets anonymously at the link level into the various inter exchange providers' routers and getting free transit?" In the long discussion that followed this kind of cheating was acknowledged by some of the participants to be a potential or actual problem.

Sean Doran also added a long but very well argued technical description of how BGP might be evolved to function as a peering tool. According to Doran: "Finally, all of this leads me to conclude that on a purely technical level, the denotative difference between "peer" and "transit" is so obscured as to be meaningless, except that perhaps with current tools, "transit" is easy to configure and "peering" is not. I would prefer, therefore, not to think of these as technical terms at all, but rather economic ones. This of course leads to the next thing:

Economically, the definition of "peering" vs "transit" is easy. The former is currently free, while the latter is not. Alternatively, the latter is what one sells to customers, the former is what people would like to sell, but can't figure out how to price properly. . . ..

Until recently, the bandwidth available at an exchange point was impossible to limit; an aggressive sender could swamp a particular provider's connection, as could an aggressive receiver. Moreover, as people have been discussing, without the assistance of an Exchange Point operator, there is no way to prevent people from sending traffic into your network without your permission"

One reason that the peering versus transit issue is confusing to the layman is that, when an ISP becomes a customer of an upstream provider, the monthly fee paid for the ISP's backbone connection includes a promise to deliver its packets essentially anywhere they need to go within the global Internet. However, if that same ISP goes to a network exchange point, conditions change totally. Now routing packets to another backbone to get them to their intended addressee, without a peering or transit agreement in place with that other provider, is considered theft of service from said provider.

From observing this discussion it becomes clear that getting peering with the major providers is becoming increasingly impossible to accomplish - in part, but only in part because the majors are shifting more and more of their traffic to private exchanges. Membership at the exclusive top level of the Internet seems to be increasingly restricted.

INTERNATIONAL INTERNET PIPES, pp. 19, 24

We publish a listing of international Internet links that land in the US. The listing is an attempt at a catalogue by a person knowledgeable in this area. We have been able to do some independent verification of Asian links that shows a general trend of very large increases in bandwidth there within the past year, something that we also suspect, but have not yet been able to verify, is true for Europe.

ACADEMIA DISSATISFIED WITH ITS FATE UNDER COMMERCIAL INTERNET: INTERNET II SOLUTION TOUTED BUT PURPOSE AND FOCUS OF INTERNET II IS BLURRED? pp. 20-21

At the appropriate moment before the election, the Gore/Clinton "team" has unveiled plans to subsidize the building of a next generation research Internet for American universities. While the exact shape of what is to be built is still not clear, we examine some of the trial balloons that were floated as long ago as last April.

QUESTIONS ABOUT COMPETENCY OF SERVICE OF GES (JVNCNET) RAISED - PRINCETON UNIVERSITY REFUSES COMMENT, p. 22

In the eyes of some the performance of JVNCNet, an NSFnet regional that once served R&E clients from Boston to Philadelphia, but has since shrunk primarily to customers in New Jersey, has drastically declined. JVNCNet has recently been found announcing routes belonging to a California ISP - a error that is not unprecedented, but one, in this case, where no one from JVNC would own up to the mistake. We question Princeton University's continued reliance on JVNC for its Internet connection. Princeton spokesman Ira Fuchs had no comment.