Palmerston North prefers to peer

'If major telcos say it'll cost to talk to them, we won't talk to them'

Palmerston North internet interests, beginning with ISP InspireNet, are establishing a peering exchange for local organisations, to be known as Pnix.

The spread of such peering exchanges comes at a time when the major telcos, Telecom and TelstraClear, are ending their peering at the major exchanges in Auckland (APE) and Wellington (WIX), a move widely expected to commit internet communications to longer routes and degrade performance.

Andy Linton, of Wellington network operator Citylink, sees the establishment of smaller peering exchanges as an interesting step in the growth of a multi-level peering structure.

Increasingly, if it’s economical to communicate with a local organisation through a peering exchange on a free-of charge reciprocal basis, rather than going up the tree to the “tier one” ISPs, then this will be the route of choice, he says. “If Telecom tells us we have to pay to talk to them, then we’ll just decide not to talk to them [where that’s possible].”

Setting up a peering exchange is not “desperately complex”, Linton says; there is a standard discipline, BGP, the Border Gateway Protocol, to exchange routing information among networks. “You put a router on the edge of your network, which can see the routers belonging to other networks and you each advertise and listen to routing information,” so routers take the most direct path to connect.

There is something of a “chicken-and-egg” situation at the start, he says; the fewer people there are to peer with, the less attractive peering is, but once it gets going, it typically expands rapidly.

Linton declined to comment on the possibility of major participants to kick the venture off in earnest. “I don’t want to say anything until agreements are concluded,” he says, but Massey University and large Palmerston North companies are obvious potential starters.

The multiplication of peering exchanges represents “an incremental change” rather than a revolution in the structure of the internet, Linton says. “It will be interesting to see how the model evolves.” There are similarities between the peering model and the structure envisaged for the Advanced Network for education and research, he says.

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