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Should the Feds Control The Internet Backbone?

Last week's spat between Internet providers Cogent and Level 3 that made possibly tens of millions of IP addresses unreachable brings up the question --- Is it time for the feds to take control of the Internet backbone?
I won't go into all the details about the food fight between Cogent and Level 3, but it had to do with the peering arrangement among Internet providers that allows them to carry traffic for each other's customers. This peering is at the heart of what allows the Internet to exist; without it, customers of various providers would be stuck in their own little Internets, without a way to get outside.

If peering breaks down, so does the Internet. The Cogent-Level 3 to-do was all about -- surprise! -- money, a disagreement over how to charge for peering traffic.

Internet access is as vital to life today as other basic services, like roadways and utilities. So one could argue that its backbone should be heavily regulated by the feds, so that future fights like that between Cogent and Level 3 don't interrupt service.

I don't think we're there yet. The Cogent-Level 3 fight, for now, is an anomoly, and so the problem isn't yet widespread. The feds, after all, haven't covered themselves in glory the last month or so, considering their absolute incompetent -- and deadly -- reaction to Katrina. And the FCC has shown itself utterly incapable of understanding Internet and networking issues.

So for now, the feds should stay away, unless things get worse. The last thing we need are cronies and political hacks in control of the Internet.