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[FYI] Mergers Threaten Internet's Informal System of Data Exchange


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February 14, 2000  


Mergers Threaten Internet's Informal System of Data Exchange  


ast week's Web site attacks were a vivid reminder that technology's 
sword of individual empowerment has a wicked double edge. But the 
term for the attack technique -- denial of service -- has the 
potential to assume an equally ominous meaning as telecommunications 
giants continue to merge their large holdings.  


But that is scarcely true today. It may be even less true tomorrow: 
upon completion of the Worldcom-Sprint merger, a single company would 
control nearly half of the Internet's backbone -- making it, 
literally and figuratively, without peer.  

Given the furious pace and high stakes of the telecommunications 
industry today, some fear that it is only a matter of time before one 
big backbone provider or another refuses to exchange data traffic 
with one of its peers.  

What happens then?  

"Well, they would have a legitimate excuse," says Hal Varian, dean of 
the school of information management at the University of California 
at Berkeley. "An ISP could complain, and rightly so, that another ISP 
was sending them huge amounts of traffic and putting a load on their 

But then, Varian says, they could also decrease the capacity of 
"their side of the network so their own traffic is getting swamped."  

"That's an excuse to say, 'We can't handle this guy's packets; we 
aren't going to connect with him,'" he added.  


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