Tech Matters: Building the Human Networking to Grow the Caribbean Internet

by Bevil Wooding

The inaugural Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Connection Forum (CarPIF), held in Barbados last April, quietly marked the opening of a new chapter in the development of the Internet in the Caribbean.
Such gatherings, called peering forums, are designed to bring together senior decision makers from internet service providers, cloud providers, content delivery networks and other related entities in a neutral environment to discuss the interconnection of their networks. Peering forums are commonplace in other regions, from Europe and North America, to Africa and Latin America.

Peering Matters

Why are peering forums important? Simple – Interconnection of the computer networks that comprise the Internet is dependent on human networking to establish those connections. The functionality we enjoy when we view a photograph, watch a video posted by someone half-way around the world, or send an email to a friend in a distant land is brought about by the decision of network and cloud service providers to interconnect their network. The quality of the service we receive from those providers is dependent, among other things, on how far or near those interconnection points are from sender and the recipient.
This is why CarPIF was such a special and historic event. It was the first time such a forum was organized to specifically encourage greater interconnection among providers delivering Internet content and services to Caribbean consumers. It was also the first time the economic underpinnings of the peering arrangements that define the Internet, were discussed in such a context, using Caribbean data and Caribbean examples to a Caribbean audience.
Importantly, the event saw peering coordinators from the Caribbean building relationships directly with their international counterparts from major Internet companies such as Google and Akamai. Peering forums are a main way for service providers to establish the relationships and
agreements that allow them to get content closer to final destination. The actual events may not have public appeal, however, their outcomes can directly influence the quality of internet services, and economic opportunities in a region.

IXP Enabled Development
Peering can be defined as the exchange of data between IP networks on primarily a settlement free basis. Network providers such as Cable and Wireless, Sprint, Digicel and others own high-speed connections that make up the Internet. These providers transfer data between each other at locations called “peering” points or Internet Exchanges. At these sites the networks ‘meet’ or interconnection with one another over so called layer-2 infrastructure. These systems are then globally tied together by connecting high-capacity fiber optic lines owned by network service providers.
The proliferation of Internet exchange points in the Caribbean has created the opportunity for content providers to now deliver their content closer to Caribbean audiences. In practical terms, this can translate into a tangible improvement in the quality of Internet surfing experience for users. YouTube videos, for example, can be download with little to no buffering, because internet servers can deliver them from a local source, as opposed to a far way international source.
“The ever-increasing amount of video and other rich media content is placing new demands on the Internet. Peering is now an essential component of most network strategies to improve their customer experience and cost efficiencies,” said Martin Hannigan, Director, Networks and Data Center Architecture for Akamai Technologies, a major cloud computing services and content delivery network (CDN) provider.
“This Caribbean peering forum was a great opportunity to meet our customers in the region and establish important new connections. We are actively exploring options for putting our content caches at the internet exchange points that are being built in the Caribbean.”
In the past, when there were no internet exchange points in the Caribbean, service providers like LIME and Columbus (FLOW) would have to pick up the content all the way in Miami, or elsewhere, to deliver to local users. With the implementation of local IXPs in the Caribbean, ISPs can now all benefit by picking up the content users want to access much closer to home at content caches stored at the IXP. And that’s a good thing for Caribbean Internet users.

First of Many
The CarPIF event organized by the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), a volunteer-based community of Caribbean technology practitioners. It attracted over forty technology experts from major regional and international Internet companies, telecoms regulators and Internet exchange point operators to Barbados. Organizers intend to make it an annual event and plans are already afoot for a second, larger CarPIF event in Curacao in 2016.
The meeting was supported by two non-profit internet organizations, Packet Clearing House (PCH) and the Internet Society (ISOC), along with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union. It agenda included expert speakers from major internet organizations including Google, Akamai, the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) and the Latin American Internet Registry (LACNIC).

Milestone not Destination
The fact that the region’s first peering forum has been so successful is testament to the increasing maturity of the Caribbean Internet community, and the increasing regard for that community by international players in the Internet space.
There is certainly cause to celebrate the positive strides the Caribbean has made in deploying critical Internet infrastructure over the past few years. However, there is still considerable room for improvement, particularly as it relates to the reliability and efficiency delivery of Internet content to Caribbean consumers.
Implementation of some exchange points is still being hindered by oppositional and self-serving actions of dominant ISPs, seemingly to be desperate to cling to models of operation that are proven to not be in the interest of consumers or market growth.
There is also room for greater technical training and broader local community awareness and support, especially from developers of local content and services.
The process of changing attitudes, increasing awareness, encouraging innovation and fostering greater collaboration amongst competitors and encouraging will take time.
The inaugural CarPIF is a great milestone, but the journey to a more robust and resilient
Caribbean Internet has only just begun.

Bevil Wooding - Profile PhotoBevil Wooding is an Internet Strategist for Packet Clearing House (PCH), a US-based non-profit research organization. He is also a founding member of the Caribbean Network Operators Group. Follow on Twitter: @bevilwooding

Google Commits to Supporting Caribbean IXPs

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados—The first-ever Caribbean Peering and Internet Connection Forum (CarPIF) successfully concluded with commitments from Internet companies Akamai Technologies and Google to pay closer attention to the needs of Caribbean Internet service providers and consumers.

More than 40 regional and international technology experts met in Barbados on May 27 and 28 to discuss strategies for improving the economics and technical efficiency of Internet content delivery in the Caribbean.

The meeting, organised by the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), explored the state of Caribbean Internet infrastructure, the impact of local Internet exchange point (IXP) deployment in the region, and practical steps for improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of Internet service across the region.

The gathering was supported by two non-profit Internet organisations, Packet Clearing House (PCH) and the Internet Society (ISOC), along with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union.

It attracted Internet service providers, including Cable & Wireless and Columbus Networks, as well as telecommunications regulators and IXP operators from across the Caribbean. International participants included the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) and the Internet Registry for Latin America and the Caribbean (LACNIC), search-engine giant Google, and Akamai, the world’s largest content delivery network provider.

“The success of the region’s first peering forum is testament to the increasing maturity of the Caribbean Internet community, and the increasing regard for that community by international players in the Internet space,” said Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist with PCH and a main organiser of the event.

He said that while the region recently made “positive strides” in establishing critical Internet infrastructure, there was still “considerable room for improving the reliability and efficient delivery of content to Caribbean consumers.”

Wooding, one of the co-founders of CaribNOG, is responsible for establishing the peering forum, together with Shernon Osepa, Regional Outreach Manager for ISOC, an organisation that encourages and supports peering forums in other parts of the world.

“ISOC was pleased to be able to work together with the CaribNOG community and Packet Clearing House to stage this first peering forum in the Caribbean,” Osepa said.

Arturo Servin, who works on content delivery and peering for Latin America, the Caribbean and the Iberian Peninsula at Google, shared on the mega corporation’s experience in bringing its content closer to Caribbean customers. Google Inc. is the company behind popular Internet services such as YouTube and Gmail.

“Google wants to bring its content as close as possible to Caribbean audiences,” Servin said. “We are currently exploring options that will allow us to better service Internet service providers and IXPs in small markets like those in the region.”

Google committed at the meeting to support IXPs in the Caribbean, and used the opportunity to meet face to face with IX operators and regulators from across the region.

“This was a great opportunity to meet our customers in the Caribbean and establish new connections,” said Martin Hannigan, ?Director, Networks and Data Center Architecture at Akamai Technologies.

“These types of gatherings are commonplace in other regions, so it’s great to see the Caribbean establishing CarPIF and putting things in place to make it possible for consumers and businesses to have a better Internet experience. That improved customer experience is the real point of peering and it’s what matters most.”

Organisers announced plans for the second CarPIF event to be staged in Curacao in June 2016.

Google, Netflix to join Caribbean Internet providers for CarPIF

By Gerard Best

If you live in the Caribbean, you don’t need to be a computer expert to know that the region’s Internet services need to improve.
If your connection falters so often that you’ve long since stopped calling customer service for redress, then you’ve got a pretty good idea about the challenges of regional connectivity.
Or if you’ve ever tried to launch a web-based startup, but have found yourself at a competitive disadvantage simply because download or upload speeds aren’t cutting it, then you have already have a decent understanding of why the region needs more robust Internet infrastructure.
No further expertise needed.
Of course, fixing the underlying issues that cause those problems is another matter, requiring technical expertise, commerce negotiations and a healthy dose of good old-fashioned collaboration.
That’s precisely the mission of the Bevil Wooding, Shernon Osepa and a volunteer group of Caribbean Internet experts going by the name CaribNOG. They are behind the upcoming Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum (CarPIF) to be held in Barbados from May 27 to 28.
The event is being organised by the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), with support from Packet Clearing House (PCH), the Internet Society (ISOC) and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU). It will bring together high-level Internet industry players from across the region and around the world.
It marks the first time that Caribbean Internet service providers and major international content providers such as Google, Akamai and Netflix, will be gathering in the Caribbean for this kind of interaction, said Wooding, Internet Strategist with PCH.
“Internet Peering fora are commonplace in other regions of the world. They are used to bring Internet service providers and content providers from across the spectrum of the Internet ecosystem into one space to build relationships, broker agreements and discuss matters related to the development and strengthening of the peering relationships that underpin the Internet,” Wooding told the Guardian.
As an outcome of the upcoming CarPIF, regional consumers can look forward to a more stable, resilient, efficient Caribbean Internet, he said.

Growing Caribbean Internet economy
Shernon Osepa, Manager, Regional Affairs for Latin America and the Caribbean at ISOC, said “the forum is a testament to the growth and maturity that has taken place in the Caribbean Internet landscape over the past few years.”
He explained that the meeting will address “strategies for encouraging and increasing local digital content development, and opportunities for content delivery network operators in the Caribbean.”
Internet exchange point (IXP) operators, infrastructure providers, Internet service providers (ISPs), policymakers and regulators make up the list of registered attendees for the event. The wide range of participants will gain valuable insight into “how the Caribbean can maximise the opportunities that can be derived for greater interconnection and peering,” said Bernadette Lewis, secretary general of the CTU.
That organisation has been playing a major role in bringing regional governments into a greater appreciation of the value of creating a healthy regional Internet ecosystem. Strengthening the region’s critical Internet infrastructure is now widely understood to be a necessary first step to strengthening its Internet economy, as online commerce remains a largely underexploited way for local businesses to deliver local services for local Internet users.