Bvi Internet Exchange Point Revived

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By Mellica McPherson-Ganda

Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) are content distribution centres of the web, and the fact that information, including digital media is becoming a bigger part of the online experience makes the BVI decision to focus on phase two of its IXP timely.

The BVI Internet Exchange Point was established in 2010 to serve as a vital part of the telecommunications landscape. The primary goal was to improve the internet economy of the Territory and ultimately reduce costs associated with internet traffic exchanged between the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the Territory by ensuring the local internet traffic is routed locally.

After a few years of silence the IXP buzzword is back as it was revealed that the TRC is pushing the mandate on behalf of Government.

In an interview with The Island Sun newspaper Mr. Elford Parsons, Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of the BVI Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) disclosed that the Government is desirous of exploring the full potential of the IXP offering and furthering its development.

“We, the TRC, will be the driving force working to bring interested parties together to make sure it (IXP phase two) happens. This is something the government is keen on seeing happen.”

Mr. Parsons noted that the BVI was in a leading position when it first established its IXP approximately six years ago, but now other jurisdictions are leading in that area:  “Interestingly when it was first conceived back in 2010/2011, I think we were like the second country in the Caribbean who were creating an Internet Exchange Point. Unfortunately a lot has happened since then, and now we are way down the list; so we are keen to re-establish ourselves as a premier destination with an IXP operating in the Caribbean.”

Back in 2011 the two providers who operated in the market came together and signed a memorandum of understanding along with the Government’ Department of Information Technology to create this IXP. However, the momentum lagged after that. “To the best of my knowledge it never got very far and over the years it never realized the potential that it was originally created to afford for the people of the Territory,” Mr. Parsons explained.

Currently the BVI IXP has three providers FLOW, Packet Clearing House (the company that helped set up the point) and CCT. We are calling this phase two in an effort to re-establish the connections. The CTO of the TRC disclosed that a key aspect of phase two is to engage the third telecommunications operator — Digicel.

Parsons added that Digicel is mandated by the Telecoms Code to be part of the IXP: “One of the first order of business is to bring them (Digicel) into the fold ensuring that local traffic to and from their customers also stays local as well,” Mr. Parsons noted.

BVI ROLE FOR CARIBBEAN SOLUTIONS

The CTO and the CEO of the TRC recently represented the Territory at the second Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum (CarPIF) that was held from 7 to 10 June in Willemstad, Curacao. At the event the CTO announced to the gathering that the BVI was embarking on phase two of the IXP.

While attending the CarPIF workshop in Curacao Mr. Parsons said that he was able to network with some content providers who are keen to expand their data centre capability outside of the continental USA.

These companies, he said, are searching for Caribbean solutions such as the BVI: “They are actively looking at Caribbean solutions such as ours to enable them to expand their data centre footprint, and indeed we think that it is an ideal opportunity for us to use the IXP to attract some of those providers into the BVI.”

The workshop was attended by representatives from large online corporations such as Google, Akamai, Hurricane Electric, ARIN, as well as AMS IX and Mr. Parson opined that it would be great if the Territory is able to encourage some of those companies to use the Territory to build data centres.

“Now it would be extremely attractive if we were to be able to convince one or more of them to establish a data centre here in the BVI. That in itself would ensure that some of the traffic from our customers will indeed stay on island rather than having to go offshore,” he commented.

As it relates to the full implementation of phase two, and the way forward for the BVI IXP Mr. Parsons said: “My personal ambition is for that to happen within six months. Certainly I think that if we can get it operational with certainly the three local providers peering and sharing locally it will be a good re-start.”

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