Cable & Wireless severs Web connections

Major Internet trunks were severed this month when ISP (Internet service provider) Cable & Wireless PLC pulled the plug on a peering arrangement with fellow service provider PSINet Inc., leaving many companies unable to send e-mail or see Web sites.

Chad Couser, a Cable & Wireless spokesman, said that the problem was rooted in a failed peering partnership between the two ISPs. As part of the deal, Cable & Wireless and PSINet were to swap data traffic between their networks and share the costs.

But in March, London-based Cable & Wireless notified PSINet that it was not sending enough traffic to Cable & Wireless. On June 2, Cable & Wireless terminated the peering connection, leaving many subscribers without Internet connectivity.

Jeff Critchlow, IT director at a large Midwestern U.S. hospital, said that the hospital’s network, which relied on PSINet as its ISP, stopped sending and receiving e-mail messages on Tuesday. Because of the severed peering connection, the hospital was unable to connect to Cable & Wireless’ network.

“I didn’t think anybody had the kind of power over the Internet to just shut off e-mail,” Critchlow said.

The hospital is currently abandoning Ashburn, Va.-based PSINet, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early June. But according to Critchlow, “in the interim, we’re hosed up here. We’re trying to figure out what’s going on.”

Couser claimed that the breakdown of the partnership was not related to PSINet’s bankruptcy filing. “Our talks with them predate their filing for Chapter 11,” Couser said.

He added that although Cable & Wireless’ actions were damaging to many companies, “we do run a business, and we can’t operate that way.”

“If you enter into a peering agreement with someone, and you end up sending them more traffic than they’re sending you, it’s no longer a peering agreement,” Couser said. “They get free access to your network, and you’re bearing the majority of the costs.”

Cable & Wireless spokesmen and spokeswomen claimed that the situation has since been rectified. On June 5, the two ISPs resumed discussions, and PSINet agreed to meet Cable & Wireless’ peering standards for 60 days, during which the two companies may negotiate a new partnership, according to Couser. The peering connection was reestablished shortly thereafter.

But Critchlow said that some problems are still lingering. In particular, he noted that e-mail messages with one of the hospital’s vendor partners are still not being sent.

Cable & Wireless, in London, can be contacted at

. PSINet, in Ashburn, Va. can be reached at