The following text is copyright 1994 by Network World, permission is hearby given for reproduction, as long as attribution is given and this notice is included.

Will Someone Buy Them a Clue?

By: Scott Bradner

In JFKs time it was said that the best and the brightest went to Washington. Many of the best and the brightest of this age are now users of the Internet. Unfortunately the easiest way to understand this is by comparing them to some of the other people also using the net.

The best, (if that is the right concept,) places to see the interplay between the populations of this new meta-land we call the Internet are some of the mailing lists. Citizenship in this new land is by the fact of access, not by accident of birth, though the population density is higher in some places than in others, or, occasionally all too clearly, by the level of education.

One of the more diverse of these mailing lists is com-priv. Established a number of years ago as a forum for discussing the commercialization and privatization of the Internet, com-priv has developed, so to speak, into a forum for more general discussion.

A feature of open, and some closed, mailing lists is cascading stupidity. Someone makes a dumb statement and a whole bunch of people try to prove they are dumber than the original poster. A recent case of this on com-priv was when someone referred to George Orwell's "1994". When it was pointed out that the actual title is "1984", a number of people posted ringing and unequivocal support for "1994" as the title. A perfect demonstration of the type of educational system in which students learn that Iran is somewhere off the coast of England, or was that New England?

Another recent topic on com-priv was the 'change' in the policy of the Commercial Internet Exchange (CIX). The CIX is an industrial trade association that also operates a multi-port router where network providers can exchange traffic unencumbered by an appropriate use policy such as the NSFNET has. In the contract that a network service provider signs with the CIX, it states that only those network providers that are CIX members can exchange traffic across the CIX. This means that, for example, NEARNET must be a CIX member in order to pass traffic through the CIX even though NEARNET is connected to the CIX through ANSNET. The fact that ANSNET is a CIX member does not give those of its customers who are network providers the right of access to the CIX. This clause has been in the CIX agreement from the beginning. The CIX board recently decided to ensure compliance with this clause by filtering out traffic from non-CIX members.

This caused a firestorm of complaints on com-priv. A number of the smaller providers saw this as some form of extortion and a few called for an investigation of the CIX. I don't know who would do the investigating since it would seem that the CIX rules are normal business practices and many of the regional networks have similar rules. It would seem a bit hard to convince people to join a club for $10,000 per year each if they could piggyback on someone else's membership for a lower cost. It would also seem to be rather bad business acumen on the part of the club to allow that process since the logical conclusion would be that there would just one club member with everyone else going along for cheap, the club would quickly go out of business.

A fee structure of $10,000 per year is a bit steep for small providers but it is a lot cheaper than any other current method of getting close to global connectivity. The CIX has been very successful with membership growing rapidly so I would hope that the fee will go down since the cost of running the exchange is spread over a larger membership.

It has been quite amazing to watch the discussion on this, and other topics, on com-priv. The level of understanding of the business world is astonishing, in all senses of that word. The dialogue, (well, the exchange of messages anyway,) may the best place to see the factors that will shape the global village that communication is bringing us. But, it sure would be nice if there was a way to do a clue implant on some of the participants.

To join com-priv send a message to Please do not forget the -request. If you do forget, the thousands of current subscribers will see that you can't read simple instructions and more than a few will describe the correct procedure to you, with one level of explicitness or another. Many of the Internet mailing lists work in this way. Mail to the list name, for example, will get sent out on the list. If after experiencing the list for a while you decide to unsubscribe you also use the -request address to request that action.