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Sprint de-partitions internet

Restores Cogent connection (temporarily)

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Sprint-Nextel has reinstated the net connections it supplies to Cogent Communications, three days after severing ties with the bandwidth provider and leaving many net users unable to communicate. But the company says the move is only "temporary."

On Thursday, October 30, after a long contractual dispute between the two outfits, Sprint snipped the last of its ten American and European connections to Cogent - one of the world's largest bandwidth providers - and Cogent responded with a press release accusing its partner/rival of partitioning the internet. As a result of the snippage, many Sprint and Cogent customers were unable to talk.

"This has a chilling effect; already, this person I worked with cannot communicate between a few sites of his," an unnamed security analyst told Slashdot. "And since Sprint is stopping the connections cold...it means that there is no backup plan; anyone going to Cogent from a Sprint ISP is crap out of luck."

But this evening, after three days of complaints, Sprint reinstated its Cogent connections. The company insists, however, that the move is far from permanent. From where Sprint's sitting, Cogent has "breached" a peering contract the two signed in 2006, and the companies are still arguing the matter inside a US court.

"Until this issue is resolved, Sprint will continue to work tirelessly to the extent within our control to mitigate the effects on customers," reads Sprint's statement. "As part of an interim solution, Sprint initiated a temporary reconnection to the Cogent network on Sunday, November 2nd so that customers would have temporary access while longer-term alternate and permanent access options are explored.

"We emphasize that this reconnection is temporary only, as the core issues in this dispute have not changed. Cogent was notified in advance of the November 2nd reconnection; therefore, any access disruptions occurring during this temporary period are the sole result of a negative reaction instigated by Cogent against the customers of both parties."

Speaking with The Reg on Friday, Cogent CEO and founder Dave Schaffer insisted that Cogent has not violated its peering contract with Sprint, which lays down rules whereby the two companies can exchange roughly equal amounts of traffic without actually paying each other.

Under the contract, Cogent is required to pay a fee if the total traffic streaming across the connections dips below a certain threshold. Sprint says this happened. Cogent says Sprint unilaterally changed the way it measures utilization.

"We were notified by Sprint that they wished to change the method of measuring utilization," Schaffer told us. "We protested and explained that this was in violation of the agreement."

Cogent takes a hard line with its peering relationships. "We don't pay anyone else for bandwidth and we're not going to pay Sprint," Schaffer continued. And over the years, this stance has lead to connection-severing disputes with several other bandwidth providers, including AOL, Level 3, and Swedish telecoms Telia. ®

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