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Internet Peering Dispute Dogs Some Maryland School Districts

On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that Internet access at schools in Prince George's County, Maryland, was slowed by a peering dispute between America On-line and Cogent Communications Group, a smaller Internet Service Provider. Cogent provides Internet access to several educational organizations including school districts and George Washington University.

Peering is the term used by Internet Service Providers for providing reciprocal network access to customers of affiliated ISPs. These peering arrangements allow small ISPs to provide their customers with nationwide and international network access.

Many peering agreements have come under pressure recently as a result of the economic downturn in the USA. This is what happened in the case discussed in the Washington Post article. A similar thing happened to CTDATA in November as a result of a dispute between our colocation provider and the company that provided bandwidth to them.

It is virtually impossible for conscientious Internet access buyers to perform a comprehensive due diligence analysis of their providers. Peering agreements can change without notice to the end customers and they can be broken just as easily. This is one situation where the Internet would benefit from more governmental oversight.

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