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Ever wonder why the internet comes to a grinding halt during events like the Superbowl, NHL Playoffs, or the FIFA World Cup?

By February 3, 2013 Broadband

The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to serve billions of users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless and optical networking technologies.

The Internet carries an extensive range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents of the World Wide Web (WWW) and the infrastructure to support email.

BUT… there is nothing more important than our ability to use the internet to watch the Superbowl or Superbowl Ads on line, or to check scores and standings for the NHL Playoffs, or watch the FIFA World Cup finals broadcaster worldwide at 3:00 am!

We are able to do this efficiently with something that we call peering.

In computer networking, peering is a voluntary interconnection of administratively separate Internet networks for the purpose of exchanging traffic between the customers of each network. The pure definition of peering is settlement-free or “sender keeps all,” meaning that neither party pays the other for the exchanged traffic; instead, each derives revenue from its own customers.

Peering requires physical interconnection of the networks, an exchange of routing information using a handy thing called the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing protocol and is often accompanied by peering agreements of varying formality, from “handshake” to thick contracts.

Marketing and commercial pressures have led to the word “peering” being also used routinely when there is some settlement involved (meaning money), even though that does not correspond to the original technical meaning of the word. The phrase “settlement-free peering” is in turn used to unambiguously describe the pure cost-free peering situation.

Motivations for peering

Peering involves two networks coming together to exchange traffic with each other freely, and for mutual benefit. This ‘mutual benefit’ is most often the motivation behind peering, which is often described solely by “reduced costs for transit services”. Other less tangible motivations can include:

  • Increased redundancy (by reducing dependence on one or more transit providers)
  • Increased capacity for extremely large amounts of traffic (distributing traffic across many networks)
  • Increased routing control over your traffic
  • Improved performance (attempting to bypass potential bottlenecks with a “direct” path)
  • Improved efficiency of routing paths for applications such as voice

Physical interconnections for peering

The physical interconnections used for peering are categorized into two types:

  • Public peering – Interconnection utilizing a multi-party shared switch fabric such as an Ethernet switch.
  • Private peering – Interconnection utilizing a point-to-point link between two parties.

Frontier has a few peering arrangements. In North America we peer to the major exchanges. They are:

Peering Exchange Exchange Prefix Website
New York International Internet eXchange

Seattle Internet Exchange SIX
Toronto Internet Exchange Community TorIX

Voice Peering for VoIP

The role of Peering in the eyes of Frontier Networks is one that we use and focus on for our customer’s Internet experience. For our private network connectivity (where we provide a customer with site to site or site to multi site connectivity) we don’t rely on Public Peering. We rely on various levels of Private Peering which allow us far greater control, granularity and security on our own traffic. For Voice, we similarly don’t rely on Public Peering instead Private Peering allows us the ability to manage reliability and availability.