CDF Conference: Tom Vest: “Internet Development in China”

Tom Vest, APRICOT (Organization of Network Analysts)
Presented a slideshow entitled, “Costs and Benefits of Running a National ARD: China’s Footprint on the Internet Routing Table”
An ARD (Autonomous Routing Demand) is a collection of one or more of network segments, routing between which is completely independent from the rest of the Internet. Cluster of countries – N. America, W. Europe, and Japan – are richly connected to one another. Many countries with just a few or only one interconnected network (not connected to the world). China is one example of these. Relatively flat heirarchy; lateral peering at the top only, very few points of interconnection with international networks.

So what difference does that make?

Over the last three years, the proliferation of autonomous networks is outpacing the growth of IP addresses, which means networks are specializing. But in China, that is not the case: IP addresses are growing faster than autonomous networks.

86% of routed IP controlled by four ISPs: China Telecom, Unicom, China Netcome, CERNet. US equivalent is 20-25%.

Fewer faces exposed to the outside world that you don’t control means better national security. But that is not always the case, “defense in depth” better.
The current system is unlikely the scale effectively. What it is good for is preserving profit margins.

Always been an argument that certain services are better under monopoly models. Vest believes that a national ARD is not one of these. Without a rich mesh of interconnectivity between networks, services more vulnerable to outages and performance degradation. No effective infrastructure sharing regime, so “multihoming” is expensive.

Running a national ARD is bad for competitiveness (i.e. bad for China). Richly interconnected national network economies leverage each other. So will China remain a national ARD? Still uncertain, China Telecom/China Netcom restructureing will at best will result in a few national network competitors. Any future “layer-based regulatory approach” will have to address infrastructure ownership/control first.

“Ruling a great nation is like cooking a small fish, a light touch is the best way to go.”

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