PSINet, Cable & Wireless spat causes Net disconnect

Internet traffic between the networks of Internet service provider PSINet Inc. and carrier Cable & Wireless PLC (C&W) came to screeching halt for four days in the past week after the two companies could not come to an agreement on a "peering" contract.

Although the companies wouldn't comment on the specific effect the service disruption had, it's likely that it caused problems in terms of accessing e-mail and reaching Web sites for some users.

C&W switched off its connection with PSINet on June 2 and did not flip it back on until June 5 when PSINet agreed to meet the requirements of its peering agreement, said C&W spokesman Chad Couser. A peering agreement is a common traffic-exchange arrangement between ISPs whereby one provider agrees to allow traffic on its backbone in exchange for being allowed to send traffic on the other ISP's backbone.

A statement that was posted on PSINet's "Our Network" Web site until Wednesday said the Ashburn, Virginia-based company was able to reroute about 90 percent of its customers traffic through free peering from other ISPs to reach the C&W network. A PSINet spokesman would not comment on the situation and referred to the Web page.

According to C&W, PSINet was sending too little traffic into the C&W network, and thus failing to meet the peering agreement between the two companies, Couser said. In February, C&W began talks with PSINet about the obligations of the peering policy. A month later, C&W notified PSINet in a letter that it was failing to meet the traffic demands.

"When the (arrangement) gets out of whack, it is the equivalent of getting free Internet (service)," Couser said.

C&W sought to work with PSINet on the agreement and suggested PSINet could resolve the issue by purchasing transit on C&W's backbone or from someone else, Couser said. PSINet refused to do it and C&W cut the connection on June 2, he said.

On June 5, PSINet came back to C&W and said it would agree to meet the requirements of the peering policy, Couser said. C&W has given PSINet 60 days to meet the demands of the peering arrangement. PSINet spokesman Eric McErlain said the company was not disclosing how it would meet the obligations of the peering agreement.

PSINet just last week filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.