The recent case of Edward Snowden has unveiled the depth of the American government’s surveillance of the Internet.
Suddenly nobody is safe from the snooping of an increasingly paranoid US administration – whether you live in the US or in Canada where we rely heavily on American networks for day-to-day transmission of emails, files, media or even basic old fashioned telephone calls.
Creating a local Internet Exchange Point (IXP) where carriers and communications providers directly connect with each other to exchange traffic means that Internet traffic no longer has to travel through major U.S.-based Internet pipelines just to reach the other side of town.
This also means faster response times for Internet users, and reduced bandwidth costs for service providers.
But having a network of IXPs that will move Canadian traffic horizontally across the country, rather than ping-ponging back and forth from U.S. hubs, will also help Canadian Internet users avoid exposure to the kind of surveillance activities that have recently come to light south of the border, according to Byron Holland, president and CEO at Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA).
“All the events coming out of the U.S. with the NSA [National Security Agency] and the PRISM program highlight that it’s a good idea to keep traffic in your won jurisdiction as much as you can,” he says.
On Sept. 26th, another Internet Exchange Point (IXP) was erected in Canada when the Manitoba Internet Exchange (MBIX) flipped on its switch.
It’s the fifth IXP to officially launch as part of a Canadian Internet Registration Authority initiative to see a number of the infrastructure anchors set down across the country.
Toronto is home to TorIX, the country’s oldest exchange point, Calgary hosts one (YYCIX), Ottawa has OttIX, and the Montreal Internet Exchange (QIX) opened its doors May 1.
MBIX has invited, but is yet to peer with, several of the region’s Internet service providers, including MTS Allstream Inc., Rogers Cable Communications Inc, Telus Advanced Communications, Shaw Communications Inc., and Bell Canada.
Bill Reid is a co-founder of the Manitoba Exchange Point. The former member of CIRA’s board of directors, Reid started talking about the idea of an IXP with two local Internet service providers three years ago.
MBIX is actually the first IXP that CIRA chose to support, and it has provided it with funding to buy the Cisco switch and connect it to the grid.
He says the major benefit of not routing traffic through the U.S. is reduced latency, not avoiding security concerns. Reid not concerned about security of traffic going to the U.S. “It’s hard for an individual to know where their traffic is going. If you have a Gmail account, you aren’t keeping your data out of the States,” he says.