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Cogent, Sprint Disconnect Networks, May Cause Web Slowdown

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UPDATED With Comments From Sprint: Cogent Communications, one of the largest bandwidth providers in the world, charged that Sprint-Nextel has severed its network from Cogent’s networks. This could cause network slowdown and decrease in web performance. In a statement today, the company said that Sprint unpeered from Cogent’s network at 4:30 p.m. on October 31 30, 2008. Peering is a voluntary process where two networks exchange equal amount of data amongst each other without actually paying each other.  

“It is no longer possible for many Sprint customers and Cogent customers to directly communicate across the Internet,” Cogent said, and alleged that Sprint was in “violation of a contractual obligation to exchange Internet traffic with Cogent on a settlement free peering basis.” The two companies are in litigation over the issue.

I will try and talk to both companies in the morning, but I just wonder if Sprint is the only party to blame here. Cogent, based in Washington, D.C., has been involved in similar unpeering spats with Level 3, Telia and other operators.

Update: Here is a response from Sprint that shows that the situation isn’t as simple as Cogent tries to paint it.  “In 2006, Sprint and Cogent entered into a commercial trial agreement. Cogent failed to satisfy Sprint’s peering criteria and refused to pay Sprint to stay connected to our network. Sprint notified Cogent well in advance that it would disconnect Cogent unless it paid, and Cogent refused. As a result of Cogent’s refusal, Sprint was forced to terminate the commercial interconnection agreement and disconnect its network from Cogent’s.”  

The Sprint spokesperson said that, “Cogent’s posturing in this case is nothing more than an effort to divert attention away from its’ contractual obligations, and this is the latest in a growing list of peering-related disputes between Cogent and Internet backbone providers.”

In the past, these problems have arisen because one of the two network operators felt that they needed to be compensated for the the traffic they were sending to the other. Cogent CEO Dave Schaffer in an interview earlier this year said that carriers hate them because they don’t like “our low-price pricing policy except our customers, and most of the companies have been reluctant peers with us.”

Cogent says that any “Sprint-Nextel wireline customer that is unable to connect to Cogent’s customers a free 100 megabit per second connection to the Internet for as long as Sprint continues to keep this partitioning of the Internet in place.”

33 Responses to “Cogent, Sprint Disconnect Networks, May Cause Web Slowdown”

  1. No doubt Sprint has its reasons; however, such drastic action seems premature. What about the court system? Take Cogent to court for damages if you think you have a case, Sprint. Don\’t take it out on your innocent customers. Can anyone say \”class action suit?\” Take Sprint and Cogent to court for damages, people. Also, join the EFF which is the only organization I know of which fights against this kind of behavior.

  2. first off anyone that is running a serious business should know better than to be single homed to one provider.

    second, most of you don’t understand peering and how networks work, this is something that surely does not need to be regulated or controlled by laws and the government.

    peering IS a PRIVILEGE.

    service providers run a business just like anything else, and when it comes to peering, agreements are made based on certain criteria, if you dont follow that criteria and you dont want to pay for the services, than the only thing to do is disconnect those “services’

    cogent is cheap and likes to play these games, they dont want to pay for transit or peering, so they knowingly go into these “trial” agreements, knowing at the end, if they dont satisfy the contract they will be asked to pay or will be cut off.

    cogent is a very shady company when it comes to this, so all you cogent customers should be calling up blaming them, as they are the reason for these reoccurring depeerings

  3. I’m a professor at Univ of IL-Chicago and not only can I not my university mail server using a client like Thunderbird, I can’t even access the university’s home page. This is a disaster for me and I am really pissed off at Sprint for taking such Draconian measures. I canceled my service last night; luckily I succeeded in getting the early cancellation penalty waived.

  4. I am a sprint customer with two T1 lines, hosting our own servers. Many of our customers are universities, several of whom are served by Cogent. Our best customers can’t access our sites, and can’t even email us. I understand Sprint’s position, but they’re decision is costing me big bucks. If it was a sprint outage, they would have it fixed in hours, but this is a conscious decision to cut service, and there’s no prediction as to a time to restore. It would probably take a month to bring in a T1 from another provider. Do I start that process in case this thing goes a month? These companies are ASKING for government regulation. Sprint is scheduled to launch their WIMAX service in Chicago next week. Interesting that the WIMAX users won’t be able to connect to the Univ of IL at Chicago sites.

  5. It is inconvenient for everybody but Cogent is known for this kind of crap they are as responsible if not more responsible than Sprint. They were given multiple notices prior to being cutoff and disregarded them now it is thier turn to face the consequences of thier actions. Obviously this is inconvenient for them but wouldn’t you think Sprint would use Sprint’s own connection for thier business? Do you not realize this also affects Sprint and the emplyees there of? Wow it amazes me how demanding people are calling for regulation when all that does is cause more cost to be incurred that ends up trickling down to the end user becaues it would be bad business for the company to just eat it. I wonder if anyone considered the fact that Cogent traffic outweight Sprint traffic in the peering communication? If someone were cutting accross your backyard there isn’t a single one of you complaining that wouldn’t expect to get yours.

  6. I am both a customer of cogent and sprint, with Internet connections with each. I know “moot” has stated earlier that nobody is blackholing Cogent’s routes, but I disagree. When I had a netblock advertised only via Cogent (using both their a and b peers), I could not connect to the site, at all, via a Sprint link, even if I could see the routes on Level 3, ATT, etc looking glass sites.

    Regardless of the reasoning, this is b.s. and needs to be resolved.

  7. I am a Sprint customer who maintains several sites that are hosted by fatcow. I cannot access any of the sites, two of which are scheduled for updates this weekend, nor can I get the email from several of my accounts. I just found out yesterday that Cogent is fatcow’s bandwidth provider. I can’t even access the fatcow website so that I can read the system alert explaining the disconnect. I spoke to a few Sprint reps today (customer service, tech support & contracts) and, not only were they all ignorant about the service disconnection, they concluded that I would be penalized if I canceled the contract because I still had access to the Internet. This is well and truly f*cked!

  8. There needs to be a law or some regulation that prevents this kind of disconnection. Both my company and our customers are unable to access certain websites and obtain email services and more. Sprint-Nextel management has a total disregard for all thoses affected and they should be punished severely! I plan to wage my own personal war against Sprint-Nextel by contacting my local Congressman, Federal Trade Commission, and many others. I encourage everyone that was affected do the same. All these Tier 1 Carriers think they’re GOD LIKE and get away with anything. We need more federal regulation on these telecommunication companies.

  9. Software tester, though the architecture does allow for some autonomy in the selection of routes, the reality is that in order to make everything work harmoniously, it is necessary for providers to set preferences and occasionally internally block/choose not to use certain paths for certain traffic.

    In particular, if one is trying to put pressure on an erstwhile peer, if you allow the traffic in question to take alternate routes, it potentially threatens your other peering agreements. If you all of a sudden were to dump a huge volume on them, they might come after you for money or breach of your symmetrical peering agreement.

    It also means that your muscle flexing wouldn’t be as disruptive to your adversary, or for that matter, to their (and your) customers. What fun would that be?

  10. @software tester

    Sprint is a true Tier 1 ISP, they don’t pay for peering, Cogent is a paid peer. While Sprint has peering every other big Tier 1, Cogent may only be peered with a few other Tier 1’s and a lot of little peers. Also there may be other routes, around to Cogent, they are probably over longer lower bandwidth paths and may even be saturated.

    Nobody is blackholing cogents routes.

  11. a Software Tester

    What I’m not understanding is why this is having as large an impact as it is? Isn’t the very nature of the internet based on a design detects when links in the net are not working and dynamically routes traffic around the bad spots? Why are not the various routers etc detecting that the packets are not getting through and trying other routes, and cutting out these bad spots in the process? Isn’t that what DARPA paid for in the first place?

  12. Well I know that I can’t get from my SprintNextel PDA to my corporate mail provider, which is multi-homed. I get the impression that they not only depeered, but are also blackholing routes through alternate transit paths, which is infuriating.

    I hope I’m wrong, but that’s how it looks. So much for moving to a mobile carrier for better-priced data services. oops.

  13. MooseHunter

    Cogent customers, here’s a quote you should post on your cube wall, for the next time a sales rep gives you a ridiculously low-ball price for what you *think* is a commodity:

    The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten. – John Ruskin

  14. Om
    You’re right this is crucial. Probably even more so since the MCI and AT&T takeovers reduced backbone competition enough to be worrisome. I tend to trust competition on the backbone to solve most things, but that competition has been reduced.

    Cogent’s had a similar battle with Telia. I pressed them for the details, and they held them back. A month or two later when the smoke cleared it became obvious there was more to the story.

    Cogent likes the David vs Goliath image, but needs to provide the details as well. Maybe you’ll have more luck than I did with them last time.

  15. There needs to be a law preventing this kind of disconnection. I was directly impacted by this as a Cogent Customer. I thought they also did a poor job in managing their client base. If you call the customer support line and listen to the status message, It states there are no Outages at this time.

  16. Carlos Alperin

    This is a connectivity disruption issue, and both parts should be punished by this kind of activity. It was clear on their agreements that peering is the basis on which Internet was founded.

    If peering will be charged some way, then each provider will be able to think that they own the rights to charge whoever for pass through any bit. Since traffic goes in both directions, then he better understand that he will be paying back, and both peers cannot be charging the end users more than what they are already charging for.

    Old history coming back…