South Africa: SEACOM’s New Policy Cuts Off ISPs

SEACOM has announced that it has implemented a new policy which will prevent the majority of South Africa’s Internet service providers (ISPs) from peering (exchanging data) directly with the company.

SEACOM said that it has reviewed its open peering policy and has decided to switch to selective peering with immediate effect.
This means that many South African ISPs will no longer be able to openly and freely share traffic directly with SEACOM.

The affected ISPs received a message from the company stating that SEACOM had identified their network as one of those which it would no longer be peering with. The notice also informed the ISP that the current peering session between SEACOM and that network would be ended within seven days from the date of the message.

The free-flowing exchange of internet traffic between service providers – also known as open and free peering – has revolutionised access to broadband in South Africa.

Before open peering, smaller ISPs had to pay operators like Internet Solutions and Telkom in order to interconnect with other networks.
The additional transit cost, which was charged on a per-Mbps basis, was a massive hurdle in launching affordable, fast broadband access in South Africa.

The policies around peering changed after the former CEO of MWEB, Rudi Jansen announced in October 2010 that the days of paying for local peering were over.This set in motion a free peering revolution where service providers followed MWEB’s lead and shared traffic freely.

Some industry players are surprised by SEACOM’s announcement, as it seems to be taking the industry many steps back to the days of restrictive peering policies.

An industry source, who did not want to be named, told MyBroadband that in his opinion SEACOM is trying to force people into getting into IP Transit with them via peering bait and switch.

An ISP owner speculated that SEACOM’s decision could be because of its growing product range as it had now become a submarine cable system, a business ISP, a residential ISP and an IP transit provider.

In response to the concerns raised by industry stakeholders, SEACOM said that it believes that its decision would not affect the service quality or pricing of South Africa’s Internet services either to consumers or ISPs.


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