The Evolution of the Internet Interconnection Ecosystem: A Peering Policy Survey

39 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2017 Last revised: 16 Aug 2017

Date Written: August 15, 2017


In 2009, William Norton, a.k.a. Dr. Peering, conducted a survey of 28 peering policies. A peering policy is a statement of "inclination" to enter into a peering arrangement by one network with other networks. Norton is one of many evangelists of Internet peering. His objective was to identify clauses that were commonly found in peering policies that could be used as model provisions for prospective providers.

Traditionally a settlement free peering arrangement was entered into between "peers," in other words, equal networks. Peering policies articulated the benchmarks used for determining if networks were "peers," that "peers" were roughly equal in size and exchanged roughly balanced traffic and therefore the value of interconnection would be mutually beneficial. In the nascent commercial Internet ecosystem of the 1990s, there were Tier 1 backbone networks, Tier 2 regional networks, Tier 3 access networks, end users, and edge providers. The network was hierarchical. Each participant in the ecosystem had a relatively discreet business plan. Thus "peers" were (somewhat) easy to identify.

The Internet ecosystem evolved tremendously in the last three decades. It is much more difficult to identify a "peer." The network is no longer hierarchical. Providers' business plans have expanded, offering access, regional, and backbone service. A provider may be a mix of hosting, cloud, CDN, and network services. Large access networks no longer are reliant upon third party backbone service and no longer pay for transit service; they charge content networks to access the access network's subscribers. Content networks are also no longer as reliant on third party backbone services, instead using CDN's to move content as close to end-users as possible. Instead of content moving up the Internet hierarchy until it reaches Tier 1 and an interconnection point, it is moved to the gateway of the access network where the CDN attempts to negotiate interconnection with the access network. This evolution has changed the inclination of networks to enter into settlement free peering arrangements.

This paper seeks to resurvey peering policies in light of the evolution of the Internet ecosystem. What has this evolution meant for the inclination of network providers to peer? Is this evolution reflected in peering policies? Is there a difference in peering policies between backbone service providers, large access providers, and content networks? Are there clauses that remain common across all policies? Can there be "peering" if there are no longer "peers"?

Keywords: Peering, interconnection, internet, IXP

Suggested Citation

Cannon, Robert, The Evolution of the Internet Interconnection Ecosystem: A Peering Policy Survey (August 15, 2017). Available at SSRN:

Robert Cannon (Contact Author)

Cybertelecom ( email )

United States


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