Life, Liberty & The Pursuit of Internet Independence

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On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, and the United States gained independence from Great Britain. Starting on this historic day, Americans had the same rights to self-government as other nations, and the promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Flash forward almost 250 years, and we have an infrastructure crisis on our hands that the Founding Fathers couldn’t have anticipated: a digital divide that’s leaving some residents and businesses with slow, unreliable internet. Americans aren’t experiencing a level playing field when it comes to home-based working or learning, with rural residents typically facing a distinct disadvantage. Similarly, entire states are relying on internet exchange points (IXs) in major neighboring cities like Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles, meaning traffic has to reroute out of state to achieve optimal network performance.

The Stakes

We know that, in this century at least, broadband speed and reliability have a major impact on most facets of life. High-speed internet boosts local job opportunities, increases property values, encourages the development of new businesses, enables life-saving telemedicine, and more. “The World Bank estimates that a 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration can lead to a 1.2% jump in real per capita GDP growth in developed economies,” according to The Brookings Institution. Greater access to broadband has even been linked to lower Covid-19 death rates in cities, a new study from Tufts University’s Digital Planet initiative found.

In recent years, the telecom industry has made headway in terms of internet competition. A study from ACA Connects found that, by 2025, nearly three-fourths of American households will have access to at least two high-speed internet providers. However, much of that competitive internet traffic is being funneled through the same metro centers, where major internet exchange points have traditionally been housed.

The South Carolina Situation

There’s no better example of this dynamic — and how it can change — than South Carolina. Traditionally, if a resident in Greenville wanted to send a piece of digital information to someone in Charlotte, that information would have to go through an out-of-state hub, such as Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas or Washington, D.C. Even given the incredible gains in internet data transfer speeds, that journey takes longer than it should.

The Pursuit of Peering

Thankfully, South Carolina recently launched the state’s first internet exchange, courtesy of DartPoints’ Bridge IX™ . The IX offers membership into DartPoints’ peering ecosystem, providing local, private access to content, carriers, and the services of other members in Columbia, S.C., as well as many other locations. This allows the state to stop importing and exporting data, keeping internet traffic local. Now, local businesses, schools, content providers, carriers, and government institutions can exchange data within the state in a faster and more reliable way, while supporting its local communities.

Unlike the broader internet — which is more expensive, less predictable, and less secure — local peering in an IX (which is limited to IX participants) provides multiple benefits, including:

  • Reduced connectivity costs by allowing for direct exchange of data
  • Access to an international peering ecosystem with more than 2,100 connect networks, including heavily sought-after connections with popular cloud providers
  • Optimized routing for faster transfer speeds and lower latency
  • Direct, private, and secure connections to popular cloud providers, including Microsoft, Amazon, and Google
  • Increased stability and quality with redundant physical infrastructure and circuits
  • More efficient content delivery through mutually beneficial business relationships

A vendor-neutral and scalable peering infrastructure strengthens the internet connectivity ecosystem within a state, and by extension, the state’s entire economy. This step toward internet independence gives states like South Carolina the same opportunity for economic growth as any other state. It also makes Palmetto State businesses more competitive, while attracting new organizations.

Visit our Bridge IX page to learn more, and read about how it’s affecting South Carolina in the Columbia Regional Business Report. Happy internet independence!