Growing Local Traffic – IXPs and Local Content

Report on ARIN “COVID-19 and the Caribbean Internet” Webinar Series


Following the successful webinar on Internet Exchange Points, network operators requested more information on how to encourage more local track across local exchange points. Bill Woodcock and Brent McIntosh returned for this follow-on session in the two-part series on Increasing Local Network Connectivity and Capacity titled, “Growing Local Traffic – Connections and Collaborations.” The session was moderated by Claire Craig, CaribNOG’s research coordinator from the University of the West Indies.

To kick things off, Craig reminded participants that an IXP is a facility that allows local Internet Service Providers to connect their networks and exchange Internet traffic locally, on a cost-neutral basis.

“IXPs keep domestic internet traffic within the nation’s borders instead of sending it across expensive international links as currently happens. An Internet Exchange Point is especially relevant when one considers the implications in terms of cost, network efficiency and privacy control,” she shared.

“Local exchange points also assist in improving service delivery to end users as well as reduce the costs of exchanging traffic between the internet service providers. This has been the experience of IXPs in the Caribbean and around the world,” Craig added.

Bill Woodcock, Research Director at U.S.-based Packet Clearing House (PCH), the world’s leading implementer of Internet Exchange, explained, “A domestic IXP can serve as a catalyst for developing local content by serving as an incentive for entrepreneurs and innovators to create local Internet-based services that take advantage of the availability of more local bandwidth.”

Brent McIntosh, coordinator of the GREX exchange point in Grenada highlighted that GREX was experiencing a greater interest from the local community in hosting applications and services at its facilities.

“We are seeing unprecedented interest from local content providers – particularly app developers, media houses, gamers, schools and government ministries – in delivering bandwidth-intensive multimedia content to Internet users across the country.”

He explained that GREX has set up a “micro data centre” at the IX facility to help small content providers to connect directly to the local exchange point.

“We strongly believe that out of the pandemic crisis there is a real opportunity to accelerate digital transformation in Grenada and even across the region. The more local content providers understand the role the IX plays in supporting the domestic Internet economy, the more they will be interested in supporting and promoting local internet traffic exchange,” said McIntosh.

The statistics support this belief. The countries in the Caribbean with functional Internet exchange points such as Grenada, Belize, Haiti, Curacao and St Maarten have all experienced a growth in traffic across their local exchange points since March. 

“The growth we are seeing in exchange point traffic across the region can be attributed to the growth in demand for local applications and local digital services,” according to Bevil Wooding, Director for Caribbean Affairs at ARIN.

Wooding reiterated that ARIN fully supports efforts to strengthen IXPs and other Internet infrastructure in the Caribbean as part of its mandate to help ensure the security and stability of the global Internet.

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The ARIN Caribbean webinar series, titled “COVID-19 and the Caribbean Internet,” explored the evolving impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in four key areas—infrastructure, security, access policy, and network service delivery best practices. The series comprised of 10 weekly sessions, conducted from 9 April to 12 June 2020. The initiative is spearheaded by ARIN and CaribNOG, in collaboration with  the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Registry (LACNIC), the Internet Society (ISOC), the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).