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Strengthening the Caribbean Internet

T&T launches local exchange… Barbados, Jamaica soon to follow
Published: 
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Technology Matters

T&T became the latest Caribbean country to take a key step toward building a more robust domestic Internet. 

The establishment of the T&T Internet Exchange, dubbed TTIX, situates a critical piece of Internet infrastructure locally and clears the way for a new phase of local Internet innovation.

“The launch of TTIX is a very significant milestone in our continuing effort to facilitate the creation of a domestic Internet infrastructure that is more resilient, more efficient and more secure,” said Kurleigh Prescod, chairman of TTIX. 

Around the world, Internet exchange points (IXPs) serve as a catalyst to dramatically enrich a country’s Internet ecosystem. The reason is simple. IXPs are a vital part of global Internet. Without them, the Internet could not function because the different networks that make up the Internet would not be able to exchange traffic with each other. With them ISPs are able to cost-effectively connect their customers to locally destined content and services.

“This new local Internet Exchange will benefit private and commercial internet users in T&T in a number of ways,” Prescod explained. “Not only will it improve local Internet performance, it will act as an incentive to attract content providers, such as Netflix, Akamai, and Google to establish a point of presence in T&T.”

The T&T exchange point brings together seven of the country’s Internet service providers. Telecommunications Services of T&T (TSTT), Digicel, Massy Communications, Open Telecom, Greendot, Lisa Communications and Flow have signed on to TTNIX and are now all connected to a special network switch that is physically located at the Fujitsu data centre in Barataria. Fujitsu is providing rack space and the IXP switch at its data centre in Barataria free of charge for four years. 

In a release from TTIX, Jean-Paul Dookie, executive vice president of government business for Fujitsu, Trinidad, said, “We view the TTIX as an essential building block towards the development of the T&T knowledge economy, through the efficiency enabled for local content creation and collaboration, through this peering point.”

Supporting Internet development

There are more than 350 IXPs around the world and they have proven to be integral to the Internet infrastructure of many nations, offering more than just cost and performance benefits. For a relatively small investment, a well-run IX opens a new world of possibilities by allowing Internet service providers a low-cost option for delivering local Internet traffic. This, in turn, allows local application developers and organizations to develop products and services that take advantage of new high-speed, low cost local Internet access.

The promise of a better local Internet experience, data security and commercial opportunities has been one of the greatest incentives to establishing IXPs across the Caribbean. The TTIX exchange now brings to eight the number of active IXPs in the Caribbean. T&T joins British Virgin Islands (BVIX), Curacao (AMS-IX), Dominica (DANIX), Grenada (GREX), Haiti, St Maarten (OCIX) and St Lucia (SLIX) as Caribbean countries with exchange points. Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines are also actively engaged in setting up local exchange points.

“Tremendous progress has been made in sensitising the region to the importance of building out national Internet infrastructure. Now we are seeing the fruit,” said Bernadette Lewis, secretary general of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU). 

TTNIX was a direct result years of education, outreach and ongoing efforts by the CTU to promote the proliferation of IXPs in the Caribbean. The CTU has had the support of regional regulators and international Internet development institutions. In fact, new collaborations have come to define the IX process in the region. 

The CTU’s collaboration with international Internet research non-profit, Packet Clearing House has been instrumental in raising awareness of the importance of local IXPs to the region’s development. The Internet Society (ISOC), and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) have also been supportive of countries seeking to strengthen their domestic Internet infrastructure. 

From local peering to local content

Each IX established in a positive step. However the launch of an IX is not enough to guarantee its success. ISPs get the immediate benefit of more efficient, cost-effective traffic exchange. The development of local applications and content to take advantage of the availability of a local exchange point will not happen automatically. Realising the larger economic and societal benefits require effort, strategy and leadership.

Exchange points have to have a clear plan for attracting local and international content providers and encouraging local Internet innovation. In addition, deliberate steps can now be taken to attract and incentivise local organizations to build local apps, create local content and deploy local services that take advantage of the local exchange.

Further, stakeholders from private, public sectors, academia, and civil society have to be sensitised to new opportunities and supported in their efforts to take advantage of them. Each new Caribbean Internet exchange is already helping to inform the dialogue among government, business, policymakers, technology innovators and entrepreneurs still contending with access costs and bandwidth issues. The key will be to translate the new dialog into meaningful action.

More exchange points in the Caribbean ensure that more Caribbean Internet traffic stays in Caribbean With every megabyte of local traffic that does not have to be needlessly exported and with every millisecond saved in local Internet transmissions, IXPs confirm their place as enablers of the domestic digital economy. 

More IXPs also means the region gets a more robust, secure, economical and better performing domestic Internet. The result is a Caribbean Internet that is better for consumers and businesses, better for spurring new enterprise, and better for strengthening the Caribbean Internet economy.

Bevil Wooding is the an Internet strategist with US-based research firm Packet Clearing House and the founder and executive director of BrightPath Foundation, an technology education non-profit organization. Reach him on Twitter @bevilwooding or on facebook.com/bevilwooding or contact via e-mail at technologymatters@brightpathfoundation.org

 

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