Least Sucky Backbone Provider

Good morning,
  I'm considering dropping Cogent completely out of my transit mix, as
the number of outages and problems they have been experienced over the past
year has reached an unacceptable level. It has gotten to the point that we
their BGP session is shutdown for longer periods than it is on. Based on the
availability of on-net fiber in my facility, I have narrowed the field to
the following candidates:

1. Level 3
2. MCI/Verizon
3. AT&T

I'm looking for comments from actual customers of the above providers in
relation to;

1. Network reliability and performance
2. Responsiveness to outages
3. Proactive notification of network maintenance

95% of our traffic mix is US48 in nature, so International routes are not a
huge decision point.

We had the same issues with Cogent .. I feel your pain...

level(3) has always been good for us - very few issues and their support
has been great from our perspective.

MCI/Verizon did not work well for us at all - their network was solid
and customer service wasn't too bad ... our problem was that less than
20% of our traffic was preferred via MCI's routes. Funny how one of the
largest networks in the world was the least attractive BGP wise.... of
course everyone's network is different with every provider so YMMV....

Never dealt with AT&T as we're based in Canada...:wink:


Have only had experience of Level3 & MCI/Verizon in the UK

I prefer Level3 due to the following...

Scale of the Network
Host lots of big content providers across the Globe
Very few outages (1 in 12months) on the UK backbone
Customer support was very good
Always an account manager to assist with any issues.

Hope this helps

Stephen Bailey - Lead Technical Services Specialist
IS Network Services
FUJITSU Services

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There can still be problems over peering links between your new Stable Carrier and some Unstable Carrier. If such a problem affects your traffic, then you may want to tell your carrier not to advertise your prefixes to the Unstable Carrier at all, which you can do using redistribution/traffic engineering communities. If your Stable Carrier doesn't support these, and your tolerance for pain is less than theirs, then you may even have to shut down your connections to Stable Carrier to keep Unstable Carrier's problem from affecting your own customers.

So who supports these communities? A cursory reading of www.onesc.net/communities says:

-L3 supports TE-community-based prepends to all its peers (?)
-Savvis to Tier-1s plus Cogent, XO, Telia
-GBLX to Tier-1s plus Cogent, XO, Telia
-Telia Sonera to Tier-1s plus Cogent, XO, TWTC
-Qwest to Tier-1s plus XO
-Sprint to Tier-1s
-XO to some Tier-1s (lacks Qwest, NTT)

Networks which may not support redist/TE communities:


(let me know if I'm in error)

These communities are useful when there are networks that (A) are unstable, and (B) carry/send important traffic to your network. I'd look for support of traffic engineering via redist. communities when shopping for a "stable" carrier.


I'm considering dropping Cogent completely [...]

Always a good idea.

1. Level 3
2. MCI/Verizon
3. AT&T

I'm looking for comments from actual customers of the above providers in
relation to;

1. Network reliability and performance

As Vijay reminds us time and time again, engineering a large,
reliable, network isn't particularly difficult these days. Indeed,
none of the candidates you name above suffer from major reliability

2. Responsiveness to outages
3. Proactive notification of network maintenance

All large providers lack in these areas, some more than others. Even
with preferred support, it's not uncommon to get asked if you get dial
tone on your OC-48, or if 10GE is "like a T1" -- I do, weekly. Plan

With that in mind, key differentiators I'd focus on when selecting a
transit provider include provisioning intervals, tools/automation,
routing policy/feature support, and reachability to specific ASNs.

I'd summarize the above vendors as follows. Please forgive the
rambling, and if you deem any of this off topic, kindly hit the 'd'
key and spare us the chatter. (Me personally, I consider vendor
reviews and pseudo-arch discussions like this fascinating and acutely
on-topic, though I can see where others may disagree...)

Level(3) (AS 3356, not legacy Wiltel, Broadwing): All in all,
thoroughly "gets it". Robust implementation of inbound and outbound
BGP communities; prefix-list auto-generation off IRR; working
blackhole community; IPv6 support, though tunneled. Support folk are
smarter than average; provisioning times are slower than average.
Large collection of "eyeball" customers.

Verizon Business (AS 701, formerly UUNET, MCI, et al): Solid as a
rock, though beginning to show its age. Supports a blackhole
community (kudos to cmorrow, et al, for setting the trend there),
though few/coarse others outbound. No inbound communities; 1995
called and asked for its as-path filters back :-). Older equipment
(Juniper M40, Cisco 12008 w/ E0-E3 cards, ...) is still common in the
edge, thus availability of 10GE customer ports is sparse outside of
specific hotels. Presents frequently on, but is not yet equipped to
offer, IPv6 customer connectivity. Significant eyeball base,
specifically Verizon DSL and FTTx customers.

AT&T (AS 7018): Solid connectivity and architecture; sharp folk who
are also active in the NANOG community (tscholl, ren, jayb, ...).
Significant eyeball base as represented by AT&T (SBC, Ameritech,
BellSouth) DSL/FTTx customers and various cable MSOs, though the
latter is slowly dwindling. With that said, it is important to
realize that their commodity IP product is tailored towards
enterprises with leased lines, not your typical NANOG/SP demographic.
Accordingly, some friendly advice here would be to lay out your
specific requirements (wrt communities, prefix listing, source address
verification, IP ACLs, dampening, ...) as a part of the contract/RFP
process, lest you might find yourself frustrated by various defaults.

-a (speaking on behalf of himself only)

Adding a bit to this, folks who give their experiences with the transits might want to mention whether they are predominantly an eyeball or content network. For example, our experience with Cogent is the reverse of the original poster's, but we are 90%ish eyeballs. I suspect that might be the difference.