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Caribbean Peering Forum Brings Dream of Better Internet Closer

Gerard Best

The dream of a faster, safer, more affordable Internet in the Caribbean sometimes seems elusive. One group of Internet pioneers is taking steps to make it a reality.

The Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum, or simply CarPIF, is an annual event that brings together the people responsible for delivering Internet services to the region, including internet service providers, internet exchange point operators, content delivery networks, data centre managers and other computer network professionals.

"CarPIF provides a very important service to the local Internet community, as it the only regional forum where the diverse group responsible for building, managing and securing the Internet across the Caribbean come together to discuss how to improve internet services and maximise the value to businesses and consumers alike," said Bevil Wooding, Caribbean Outreach Liaison with the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), and one of the co-founders of CarPIF.

"CarPIF is where the economic underpinnings of the traffic exchange and peering relationships that define the Internet are discussed using Caribbean data and Caribbean examples, to a Caribbean audience," Wooding said.

At peering forums around the world, network operators broker deals with each other and with content providers such as Google, Facebook, Netflix and Akamai, which service up some of the most popular content on the Internet. It was no different at the CarPIF event. The main meeting hall of Belize City's Radisson hotel was abuzz with sound of over fifty CarPIF delegates engaged in conversation, meeting contacts, drumming up leads and striking new deals.

But the event involved more than the swapping of business cards. The two-day program featured high-profile speakers from across the region and around the world. From the outset, a tone of Caribbean collegiality was set by event moderators Wooding and Shernon Osepa, Regional Affairs Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Internet Society, and one of the co-founders of CarPIF. Presenter after presenter openly shared their real-world experience and exchanged practical insights to help improve and advance the Internet in the Caribbean.

Keynote speaker John Curran, CEO of ARIN, regaled participants with stories from the earliest days of the Internet, illustrating how the network connections that make up the global Internet ultimately rely on an underlying fabric of social relationships.

Etienne Sharp, coordinator of the Belize internet exchange point, sat on a panel with local internet service providers, openly discussing some of the challenges affecting their technical interconnection and business relationship. Riyad Mohammed, a representative of the ttix2 internet exchange point in south Trinidad, vividly described some growing pains of the team behind the region's newest internet exchange.

The flow of the conversation also pivoted to explore avenues for new business. Jamaican-born Stephen Lee, Program Director at the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) and CEO of US-based technology services firm Arkitechs, gave a practical overview of local content development opportunities available for Caribbean entrepreneurs. Peter Harrison, CTO of Silicon Valley-based data centre firm Colovore, gave insights into the nuts and bolts of managing high-performance colocation facilities.

Nico Scheper, coordinator of the AMS-IX Caribbean internet exchange point in Curacao, shared valuable data on the positive impact of internet exchange points on Internet speed in the Caribbean over the last decade. And Arturo Servin, Manager of Content Deliver and Interconnection Strategy for Latin America and the Caribbean at Google, gave expert insight into how Google balances business interests with other considerations in choosing the locations for its caches.

"CarPIF has really grown over the years into a significant event on the Caribbean calendar, for operators as well as for international content providers," Osepa said. "We were pleased to see another strong turnout in Belize. More importantly, the issues impacting access and affordability tackled at this year's event should result in tangible benefit to consumers."

Kevon Swift, Head of Strategic Relations and Integration at the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC), remarked, "The representatives from four major Internet organisations, ARIN, LACNIC, ICANN and the Internet Society are all here, working together to build a more stronger Caribbean Internet."

The event was held from June 13 to 14, with the support of several other Internet organisations, including CaribNOG, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union and Packet Clearing House. The local host was Belize's Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

Delivering closing remarks, PUC Chairman John Avery thanked all the event supporters.

"The PUC has derived significant benefit from CarPIF, and we plan to use the information and insights gained to improve internet service and affordability for Belize. I think the Forum lives up to its goal of connecting the Caribbean, both its networks and its people," he said.

By Gerard Best, Development Journalist
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