Verizon, Cogent Engage in Peering Spat

Verizon Communications and Cogent Communications are in a war of words this week over allegations that Verizon is purposefully saturating its peering points with Cogent and causing the performance of Netflix video streams to degrade.   

The battle kicked off in a report in GigaOm on Monday, with Cogent CEO telling the publication that Verizon is “allowing the peer connections to degrade,” adding that “some of the ports are at 100% capacity.” 

Verizon shot back Wednesday via this blog post from company VP of federal regulatory affairs David Young, claiming that the traffic loads being shared between Verizon and Cogent are now out of balance and Cogent is “creating a perceived crisis” and upset that it might have to pay more to boost capacity.

“Cogent is not compliant with one of the basic and long-standing requirements for most settlement-free peering arrangements: that traffic between the providers be roughly in balance,” Young wrote.

When traffic loads are not symmetric, Young continued, “the provider with the heavier load typically pays the other for transit… This isn’t a story about Netflix, or about Verizon ‘letting’ anybody’s traffic deteriorate. This is a fairly boring story about a bandwidth provider that is unhappy that they are out of balance and will have to make alternative arrangements for capacity enhancements, just like any other interconnecting ISP.”

Verizon, he added, offers cloud and hosting services to interconnecting providers that send out more traffic than they receive from Verizon’s networks. “These solutions are available today to Cogent, Netflix and any other content or network service provider with similar traffic profiles,” Young added.

Netflix, meanwhile, has been tracking the quality of video streams being delivered by ISPs, and its rankings of Netflix streams delivered on Verizon’s FiOS and DSL networks did not change appreciably from April to May. In May, Verizon FiOS provided an average speed of 2.17 Mbps, good for 6th place, while Verizon DSL's network delivered an average speed of 1.43 Mbps, putting it in 16th place, according to Netflix. In Netflix’s April rankings, Verizon FiOS also averaged 2.17 Mbps (6th place), while its DSL network averaged 1.42 Mbps  (16th place). If Netflix streams struggled on Verizon networks more recently should be reflected in Netflix's ISP Speed Index for June. 

The bickering between Cogent and Verizon  is reminiscent of the peering scuffle between Comcast and Level 3 in 2010 that morphed into a network neutrality debate. Soon after it secured a deal to become one of Netflix’s key content delivery networks, Level 3 complained that Comcast was demanding payment to deliver additional traffic. Comcast balked because Level 3 requested additional capacity for no additional cost, under their existing settlement-free peering arrangement.