Carrier hotels and large data centers offer the telecom and network industry convenient locations to interconnect with other telecom companies at a physical level, in a neutral facility offering high density of available carriers. As telecommunications worldwide continues movement towards packet networks and services, Internet protocol exchanges and interconnection points will add even greater value to the global telecom community.
Large networks are demanding compensation from smaller networks and content providers for use of their infrastructure, while the Internet community in general is demanding free access (network neutrality) to that infrastructure used, or contracted from the large facility-based networks. Carrier hotels are essential to survival of smaller companies hoping to compete with established public utilities including AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth.
Legislation such as HR 5252, without specific network neutrality protection, will drive the second tier of network providers to develop parallel infrastructure using wireless and physical cable, in addition to stronger peering relationships allowing bypass of large network infrastructure. Carrier hotels support stronger peering relationships among smaller networks and content providers by allowing a neutral interconnection environment, bypassing large wholesale network infrastructure or transit.
The Internet Tiered Hierarchy
For the past 15 years or so the Internet has been broken into three major tiers:
• Tier 1 – the backbone carrier. These Tier 1 carriers are facility-based, and carry the entire Internet routing table. Internet network providers normally acknowledged as Tier 1s include Verizon (formerly UUNET/MCI Internet), Sprint, AT&T, and Cable & Wireless.
• Tier 2 – regional and second level Internet networks. Also normally facility-based, however still rely on one of the Tier 1s for some routing and transit. This includes cable TV networks, CLECs, and international second tier carriers such as France Telecom Open Transit and Level 3.
• Tier 3 – Access networks and content service provider networks.
Peering is a concept that allows networks to have mutual agreements allowing the transfer of traffic directly between their networks, without having to use a higher tier network for that transit. Paid peering is how Tier 2 and Tier 1 networks charge smaller networks for accessing their backbones or allowing subscribers to their networks access to the rest of world Internet.
Network Neutrality assumes users will be able to control what kind of content or applications they produce or access, without regard to grade or quality of service. Thus, whether you pay for a dedicated, all-you-can-eat port, or if you pay a usage-based billing model, all you are paying for is the ability to send and receive packets at the rate agreed in your contract with an “upstream” Tier 2 or Tier 1 network provider.
Current legislation (HR5252) will give Tier 2 and Tier 1 carriers much more control over the content produced and applications used by both Tier 3 networks and content/applications providers, but also restrict how end users may be able to use network applications. An example most widely touted is voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. The Tier 1 and Tier 2 networks claim VoIP requires higher quality of service, and therefore places unreasonable demands on the backbone network. They further contend content service providers, such as Google and Yahoo, are able to provide their content to users without charge or fee to backbone network providers which are used as transit networks.
Originally verbiage in HR5252 included discussion on network neutrality. Network neutrality is the principle that “Internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the Internet.” Since the beginning, the Internet has operated under the principle of network service provider neutrality, fostering technical innovations, development of online industries, and creation of a truly global community and marketplace.
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