What Is An Internet Exchange?

Imagine a (contrived) world where airline travel wasn’t as advanced as it is here today. Imagine further that you live in Sydney, which is only served by Air Canada, and you wanted to fly to Moncton, which is only served by Westjet. For some reason you can only transfer from one airline to the other in Toronto. That would be a lengthy, expensive trip, and it would be obvious to anyone that there should be a better solution.

Then someone in Halifax realizes that both Air Canada and Westjet service their airport, but they are at different terminals and transfers are not possible. The airport authority sees an opportunity and adds a new service between their terminal buildings that allows passengers to transfer from the Air Canada flight from Sydney to the Westjet flight to Moncton. The airlines are happy because they don’t have to burn fuel carrying the passengers half way to Winnipeg and back, and the passengers are delighted that they will get where they are going faster and for less money.

Everyone wins.

The Internet situation today is somewhat like that contrived airline scenario. Internet traffic often travels thousands of kilometres, sometimes through foreign countries, in order to cross the street. It was obvious there was a better solution in the airline case, and there is a better solution for the Internet as well.

The Halifax Internet Exchange allows Internet traffic to stay within the region just as the new airport facility in the above scenario allowed travellers to stay within the region. Different Internet carriers, major customers, and content providers can now interconnect locally rather than have to buy expensive, slower connections through Toronto or elsewhere. Businesses save money, consumers get better service, and everyone wins.

We can stretch the analogy a bit further. Suppose the only Tim Horton’s around was at the Toronto airport and the traffic at the two Halifax terminals didn’t justify an outlet in each of them (I warned you this would be a stretch). The only way to get your coffee would be to make the trip to Toronto and back. But when the Halifax airport opens its new facility allowing Air Canada and Westjet passengers to co-mingle, suddenly Tim’s sees increased foot traffic and a business opportunity and sets up shop in the common area. Less travel, less cost, and fresher coffee; everyone wins.

As the volume at the Halifax Internet Exchange increases, major content and Internet providers will be attracted to the facility because of the new business opportunities. Just as travellers could get their caffeine fix faster and cheaper as soon as Tim’s opened their Halifax location, so too will Internet users be able to get their streaming and other content from Halifax-based servers. Performance will be better and costs to businesses (and ultimately consumers) will be reduced.

Everyone wins.