Level 3, Cogent call time out on peering spat

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Level 3 Communications Inc. restored its peering connection with fellow ISP (Internet service provider) Cogent Communications Inc. late Friday, temporarily ending a standoff that had blocked out some Internet traffic between their customers for several days.

Level 3 says its surrender is only an ad-hoc solution. "Because Internet users, apparently without notice from Cogent and through no fault of their own, have been impacted, Level 3 has, effective immediately, re-established a free connection to Cogent," the company said in a written statement issued Friday afternoon. "In order to allow Internet users to make alternative arrangements, we will maintain this connection until 6:00 a.m. ET, November 9, 2005."

Broomfield, Colorado-based Level 3 said it is open to negotiating a new contractual arrangement with Cogent that will be equitable to both sides. In a statement posted on its Web site on Friday, Cogent, headquartered in Washington, D.C., also indicated a willingness to resume negotiations with Level 3.

The standoff between the two companies began Wednesday morning, when Level 3 terminated a "peering" arrangement through which it and Cogent exchanged traffic across their networks without charge. Peering is advantageous when both partners trade similar traffic volumes, but Level 3 maintains that it was carrying most of the load in its exchange with Cogent. Level 3 says it warned Cogent in July that it would end the peering arrangement unless the two sides agreed on "alternative commercial terms," likely involving Cogent paying Level 3 to continue carrying its traffic. When Cogent ignored those notices, Level 3 carried through on its threat and cut Cogent off, leaving some customers on each vendor's network unable to reach certain sites that depend on the other vendor's network.

A Level 3 spokeswoman said last week that the company's Cogent de-peering was part of a more widespread evaluation of Level 3's peering agreements, a review that led it to renegotiate or end several other peering contracts. Only its Cogent de-peering, however, affected enough customers to prompt a noisy backlash against both Cogent and Level 3.

Friday's agreement means traffic across the two networks is running once again, for the time being: The "Internet Health Report" site maintained by Internet performance monitor Keynote Systems Inc. showed traffic between Level 3 and Cogent flowing smoothly all weekend.

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