A Fragile Internet
Thursday, April 30, 1998 by Dave Winer.
A couple of years ago, apalled with the quality of service at my Internet service provider, I went shopping, using the Internet of course, for a new service provider.
It worked, I hooked up with Conxion, and have been pleased with the service ever since.
I chose Conxion because they talked to me like a customer. They were willing to bet on the service alongside me. I got the first six months on evaluation. If I wasn't pleased I could cancel the account and I would pay nothing. When the six months were over, I wrote the check, and I've been happy with Conxion ever since.
I also chose Conxion because a very large company, Microsoft, chose them to distribute their software. I knew that my flow would be smaller than Microsoft's, and I reasoned that I would probably get the same bandwidth and connectivity, if not as much attention, as Microsoft would.
As good as it's been being a Conxion customer, there's a problem, whose nature I don't fully understand, but whose effect I totally do.
Some people, because of how they connect to the Internet, cannot reach my site. The illusion that the Internet provides universal connectivity is just that. There are some places you can't get to, and that changes from day to day. Some days you can get thru, then Laurel and Hardy kick in, they trip over a wire, and all of a sudden you can't connect.
An email was posted on the Frontier-central list earlier today, by Stephen Waters, firstname.lastname@example.org, publisher the Rome Sentinel and a longtime Frontier webmaster. We have a relationship with Mr. Waters, but we're losing that relationship because he can no longer connect to our server.
He says "I never realized how much I look forward to looking at Scripting News each morning!" The fact that he, and many others, can't get thru to our server is a major business problem for my company, one that we must get to the bottom of, and solve.
We first heard about the current round of disconnects last week. I've been getting a steady stream of messages about the situation. Every time someone's gotten to the bottom of the problem, it turns out to be a routing problem between Digex and Conxion. The management of Conxion has been made aware of the problem, now I want to be sure that the management of Digex is also aware.
[To the management at Digex, I want to be clear, I am not an employee or shareholder of Conxion. I am a content and tools provider that connects to the net thru Conxion.]
If you are a Digex user and a DaveNet or Scripting News reader, the only way we can communicate is thru email, assuming that works. I have no direct influence over Digex, since I am not a customer of theirs, but if you are, please let them know about this problem and ask them about their plans to fix it.
We can solve this problem anyway, even without the help of the ISPs. We can gather information so we understand what it is about the Internet that needs fixing, what kinds of service standards we want to set for our service providers, and what our rights are, as customers and net users.
We're getting closer to the ideal, an ISP world where the S word is taken seriously. We're getting closer, but we're not there yet.
PS: One possible solution is to mirror our site somewhere else on the Internet, a place we can get to and Digex customers can get to. In the next few months it will become easier, at a technical level, for us to do that.