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Content, culture and control - A local Internet Exchange Point makes access better!

Published:Sunday | November 16, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Hundreds of fans funnel hot air from the computer servers into a cooling unit to be recirculated at a Google data centre in the United States. - File

Gordon Michael Swaby, Contributor

The allure of Jamaica and its culture with its iconic reggae stars, innovative creations, lush landscape and vibrant people has long resonated across the rest of the world.

It is important, then, to decide how to protect and share the intellectual treasures of the island, especially within the information age and through the limitless expanse of the Internet.

The points at which such information is located, hosted and exchanged have assumed even more critical importance in dictating how the transfer of information emanating from Jamaica is carried across the information superhighway.

A local Internet Exchange Point (IXP) is central in ensuring the efficient and cost-effective transfer of information across the Internet.

Would it not be better to have one in your own country than for traffic originating in and destined for Jamaica to be exchanged at an IXP overseas, and then subsequently sent back here?

Believe it or not, most emails originating in, and destined for Jamaica go through an IXP overseas, and Jamaicans use scarce foreign exchange to pay for this service. This method leads to suboptimal routing of local data while exposing our data to the dictates of foreign jurisdictions.

It also entails using scarce foreign exchange to buy port capacity at overseas IXPs. This port capacity is constrained by the fact that it has to transport content destined for local and overseas recipients over the same facility. As this traffic grows, Internet service providers (ISPs) will have to upgrade their port capacity and incur even higher costs, which is typically paid for by you, the consumer.

The value proposition

Isn't it preferable to have local content stay local and content destined for overseas traverse the more expensive facilities? This is the value proposition for having a local exchange as it provides a cost-effective means for local content to remain local while providing a stimulus for the creation of a local Internet economy that could lead to the establishment of data hosting centres; increased local content; hosting of content distribution networks such as Google and Akamai; as well as the establishment of more local ISPs.

These considerations justify the establishment of a local IXP and illustrate why it is such an important undertaking as it provides an enabling environment for this to happen.

Content distribution networks are frequent participants at IXPs and provide users with access to content on a global scale, as well as allow for robust data delivery through their ability to dynamically adapt to changing user demand for content that they host.

In addition to this, as a part of the Internet ecosystem, content distribution networks also enable owners of content to dictate the regions where their content may be accessed and on what terms.

I am sure that you may have gone on sites such as Amazon and tried to specifically access content only to be told that what you are requesting is not accessible in your region. Such a directive is carried out at the behest of the content owners.

Making our music the focus

Jamaica has established itself as a country with a global footprint in reggae. Invaluable work done in this area should be preserved and offered up on terms that are considerably more beneficial for the content owners. Can you imagine hosting our local content here with music producers being able to promptly upload new songs as they have been completed, advertised through a portal managed here and sold on terms that enable a greater percentage of earnings to go to the owners of the content?

I am sure that this is preferable to being lost in the ocean of songs that are available on portals such as iTunes, and which may not allow our music the unique focus that it deserves by lumping them alongside a myriad of other non-indigenous art forms from bluegrass to Indie Rock.

In addition to this, persons providing content to platforms hosted overseas are subject to the laws governing the usage of these platforms which may include the applicable taxes, fees and even the methods available for dispute resolution should any arise.

In the final analysis, there exists a great opportunity to reposition Jamaica to be the content powerhouse within this region, if not the world.

This will require foresight and investment, an enabling regulatory environment, and visionaries who can harness the power of the possibilities afforded by having a local IXP in Jamaica. A country that is adored the world over and for which there is an endless stream of sights and sounds ready to offer to a global audience all the time, and maybe then we can safely say - to paraphrase a popular term - content, no problem, mon!

Gordon Michael Swaby is a regulatory engineer at the Office of Utilities Regulation.