Asian ISPs Mobilize To Pressure US On Tariffs

Asian ISPs are mobilizing to bring about better tariff settlement for international Internet connections between Asia and the U.S.

Current tariff structures are increasingly going to pose challenges to
telecom and ISP operators in the region, according to Bram Dov Abramson,
an analyst at Washington-based Telegeography Inc.

Asian ISPs pay for the entire leased line to the U.S.–in contrast to
non-Internet leased lines, whose cost is equally shared between the U.S.
and Asian parties.

Earlier this year, a joint statement was issued by eight Asian telcos,
calling for U.S. operators to share the costs of the international
cables connecting the U.S. and the rest of the Internet.

The Asian telcos were the Communications Authority of Thailand,
Chunghwa, Indosat, KDD, Korea Telecom, Philippine Long Distance
Telephone, Singapore Telecom, and Telekom Malaysia.

“It is very hard to say exactly how much revenue is lost by Asia-Pacific
ISPs because of the tariff imbalance, particularly given the secrecy
surrounding many interconnect agreements,” Abramson said in an exclusive
interview.

Telegeography is a leading research organization charting telecom links
and Internet backbone maps for Europe, Asia, Africa, and the U.S. Its
290-page yearbook “TeleGeography 1999” features a special section on
Internet topography and its impact on ISPs and telcos.

The Asian Internet industry can address some of the traffic imbalance by
local content generation, according to Abramson.

“Asia must become a destination on the Web, and not just a starting
point, both for Asians and others. With large overseas diaspora,
there’s no reason that this can’t happen: portals, for instance, can be
designed to serve as surfing hubs to quickly reorganize users around
regional content,” Abramson suggested.

He said concerted efforts must be launched to provide access
through community tele-centers, and to ensure that content development is
driven by real
needs.

“Asian ISPs have been the most visible in drawing attention to this
problem of late, though European Internet carriers like Deutsche Telekom
have certainly not been silent over the last few years,” Abramson
observed.

The initiatives which have come together in Singapore this month —
including APRICOT (Asia Pacific Regional Internet Conference on
Operational Technologies) and various Asia-Pacific networking group
meetings–may be an encouraging sign of resolving such issues.

But one of the roadblocks to better overall tariff agreements is the
secrecy that surrounds many interconnection agreements.

“As the ISP sector in Asian countries like India grows in the wake of
recent liberalization,
it will be important to make sure that institutional spaces be created
for ISPs to cooperate on issues of common importance — not just on
policy advocacy and representation, but on actual infrastructure and
content initiatives,” Abramson urged.

“The resources that will be necessary to create such an institutional
space among Indian ISPs shouldn’t be neglected, especially if smaller
and remote ISPs are to have a voice within that kind of forum,” he said.

In the telecommunications world, the International
Telecommunications Union works out the sticking points in the
relationships between interconnecting carriers.

“Governance in the Internet world has evolved without that kind of
place,” Abramson explained.

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