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Internet Evolution

Complexity of Internet Connections: Technology, Incentives and Implications for Policy

This paper discusses the variety of networks that make up the Internet and the diverse ways in which they choose to interconnect with each other.The trend towards large content providers and overlay distribution networks playing an increasingly important role is clearly identified. It is an interesting question of whether the increasing use of overlay networks means that visibility into network structure and content necessarily decreases. If it does then that would have implications for the methodology adopted by the Atlas study. As stated at the outset, Internet measurement is hard.

The traditional model of network interconnection in the Internet was a relatively simple hierarchical model (see Figure 2). As the marketplace for Internet service has evolved, so the interconnection landscape has matured and diversified (see Figure 3). These figures are based on similar figures from the ‘Internet Inter-Domain Traffic’ paper cited earlier.

Figure 2: Traditional Internet hierarchical model

Figure 3: Flatter, more connected Internet model

The paper provides insight into recent operational developments, explaining why interconnection in the Internet has become more complex, the nature of interconnection bargaining processes, the implications for cost/revenue allocation and hence interconnection incentives, and what this means for public policy.