[governance] Re: The Internet (as we know it) can never be "private"

Salanieta T. Tamanikaiwaimaro salanieta.tamanikaiwaimaro at gmail.com
Wed Jul 20 06:50:17 EDT 2011

This is excellent recount of history Daniel and it is certainly useful.


On Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 6:18 PM, Daniel Kalchev <daniel at digsys.bg> wrote:

> Please note what follows may be too old for many and sometimes with more
> detail. I also try to not draw much conclusions at this time.
> On 19.07.11 23:42, Miguel Alcaine wrote:
>> In this case, it is convenient to follow the levels in the suggested
>> order: First actions at the local, then national, etc. We need to overcome
>> the barriers to cheaper interconnection costs. One way of doing so, is
>> promoting IXP at the local, national and regional levels. The order is also
>> important to have more meaningful discussions at the next level.
>> Here, I am also very interested in the experience in Bulgaria. How ISPs
>> finally understood the convenience of IXPs ? Could Daniel help us in finding
>> out more information about it?
>> Another usual missing part of the equation is the promotion of content.
>> Infrastructure and content need to evolve hand in hand. Any good experiences
>> from anybody to share on this?
>>  In the Bulgarian case, the development was driven primarily by "private"
> demands, that is, costs and user demand.
> Of course, local content played significant role in this development.
> In the beginning, Internet connectivity to Bulgaria was very expensive, due
> to relying on the monopoly telecom pricing. Connectivity within the country
> was not less expensive, for the same reasons, although the telecom possessed
> and operated modern infrastructure. But they were not letting anyone "buy"
> it -- you had to wait several months, sometimes years in order to get a line
> from A to B, while it was strikingly apparent that infrastructure and
> capacity is available.
> I remember two such cases, that are indicative:
> For a while, we have been using analog circuit for international
> connectivity. So far so good -- TCP/IP Internet was available! But, it was
> slow and unreliable (in today's perception even more so), so we wanted to go
> digital. Digital circuits were available, although very expensive and ...
> the telecom refused to provide the circuit for whatever reason. We
> eventually succeeded and it was only possible, because it turned out the PTT
> wanted to provide digital capacity first to their own X.25 network, then to
> "the competition" --- was it our fault that their network could not make use
> of this connectivity faster? I havent' looked in archives, but from memory
> 64kbit line to anywhere would cost like 6000+ SDR a month.
> Another case was for national connectivity, same telecom. We wanted to
> connect a major city and were looking for a location to put our equipment
> (not much at that time). After discussing with the local PTT branch we were
> offered to collocate our equipment in their "new all digital switch room", a
> place where the optical rings across the country interconnect. To my
> surprise, everything was connected and passing dummy traffic there -- but no
> real users! We were excited and immediately ordered digital circuits from
> that city to few others. At a price like 4000-5000 SDR for 2 Mbit for 100+
> km distance.. Outrageous price, even if international connectivity was more
> expensive. We got no response... Two years later, the manager at the local
> PTT responsible for the digital infrastructure eventually got Green Card
> from the US lottery and left the country --- ironically, we got "permission"
> for the first circuit few days latter... During that two years, we were
> forced to use multiple analog circuits and to whatever tricks to have some
> connectivity to that large city..
> Since then however, things developed in a different way. It was obvious
> that the state owned and regulated telecom would do whatever it take to stop
> this "Internet thing" from developing. However more difficult it seemed, we
> were forced to go forward and build our own networks, all over the country.
> The in-city networks were easier/cheaper to build and the initial inter-city
> links were all wireless, not so fast and reliable but way, way cheaper and
> instantly available --- going even to the smallest village, that didn't have
> phone coverage. Then, as traffic needs became more significant, few optical
> networks were laid across the country. Some even went that far to lay
> optical fiber cross-border, thus providing massive capacity opportunities
> internationally. The telecom, which was later privatized was practically
> forgotten and now they are insignificant player, although they still
> continue to have the most extensive infrastructure available (form the times
> the state invested in laying cables all over the country).
> For some time, the phenomenon of "Local city networks" emerged in Bulgaria.
> These were networks with relatively poor Internet connectivity, but offering
> LAN speeds (10-100 Mbit) to local content. This built local Internet
> communities and demand and also local interconnects. Eventually with
> inter-city and international connectivity becoming cheaper, these networks
> got better Internet connectivity to non-local content and regional/national
> interconnects. Some of these networks also became larger ISPs offering wider
> selection of services.
> As to IXPs development. In the beginning there were some attempts to
> organize the IXPs by few ISP organizations. But this never worked. At that
> time, private interconnects were the rule and indeed, few of the ISPs were
> offering "free lunch" to their peers, that is, transit to other national
> networks. There were few "official" IXPs but because they were hosted by one
> or more ISPs other didn't find this neutral enough and were reluctant to
> join. We tried to also organize IXPs based on Academia grounds, as an
> neutral place to interconnect, but this too, newer worked.
> There was the telecom initiative to provide city-wide and nation-wide MAN
> networks, but they never got the price/attitude right and although these
> services were used for interconnects by many, and are still used -- this
> initiative was never competitive enough.
> The first successful "real" IXP was purely private and focused effort -- to
> fill the need. A privately owned enterprise, especially founded for the
> purpose and focused exclusively on providing IXP services. So far has
> exceeded expectations. Of course, private interconnects between ISPs still
> do exist and grow. But the IXPs have permitted smaller players to have
> access to the same Internet connectivity/capacity as did larger.
> Besides IXPs, what helped development and driving costs down was the
> creation of few data centers. The first data centers were rather primitive
> by today's standards but provided cheap means for data providers to host
> their infrastructure without inuring enormous costs for connectivity.
> What is common in all these success stories: 100% private initiatives and
> 100% lack of regulation.
> If, say 20 years ago, the government has chosen to other the monopoly state
> owned telecom to at least provide connectivity without delays, we could have
> achieved this much, much faster. But apparently, at that, already democratic
> times those in the Government who were "governing" IT and telecom
> development didn't see any value to developing Internet and so, their
> "governance" was in effect trying to prevent it from happening.
> Not so, with the private people. It is important to understand, that by
> "private" I do not mean corporate, by any way! Most of the ISPs in Bulgaria
> started very, very small. Sometimes I guess even as family business. Those
> people all invested their efforts for the Internet to happen. Even if some
> of them dreamed of "control" and were greedy (I have many examples, observed
> over the years), they soon realized, that they can achieve this on/via
> Internet as much, as they can achieve it in their normal human society.. and
> if they were unsuccessful in the human society, they would fail the same way
> in Internet.
> Years ago, there was a great debate in Bulgaria, whether Internet should be
> subject to regulation. There were intentions to require ISPs to obtain
> licenses etc. Ironically, to my knowledge, that regulation was invented by
> some of the existing ISPs, that didn't really understand how Internet work
> and dreamed of having absolute monopoly (or oligopoly, rather). Many claim
> to have direct influence on the outcome, but my position is that the outcome
> was community effort -- at the end the Government backed out of regulation.
> I believe they are now happy with that decision and the further Internet
> development has happened without any effort on Government's part.
> Current raw connectivity costs in Bulgaria are well below 1 euro per
> megabit for both inter-city and international connectivity. Connectivity
> costs have reached the level at which users are not really paying for
> connectivity, but more for service and support.
> This has become longer than expected, but let's home some find it useful.
> Daniel
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