Telia internet dispute: ‘No end in sight’

Telia internet dispute: 'No end in sight'
Internet traffic between Sweden’s TeliaSonera and US-based Cogent Communications has been cut off for more than ten days and both sides point fingers at one another while customers continue to suffer.

“It’s an unfortunate situation which we hope we can resolve, both for the sake of our customers and those of Telia,” said Cogent CEO Dave Schaffer to The Local.

Facts are hard to come by in the dispute, with both internet providers offering starkly different versions of why the relationship went sour.

Citing emails from “someone high up in Telia”, Schaffer claims that TeliaSonera “made a conscious decision” to ignore warnings from Cogent that it was failing to provide adequate connectivity points for the exchange of information between the two companies’ customers.

As a result, said Schaffer, internet traffic between Cogent’s European customers was often re-routed all the way to the US and back, causing delays and disrupting customers’ ability to access certain websites.

His company decided to cut off internet communications with TeliaSonera on March 13th rather than continue to provide Cogent customers with a “degraded” internet experience.

But the move caught TeliaSonera and its customers off guard.

“It was quite a surprise to us,” said TeliaSonera spokesperson Maria Hillborg to The Local.

As a result of the move, many of TeliaSonera’s customers in the Nordic region have limited or no connectivity to websites hosted by Cogent, such as YouTube.

Hillborg had no clear answers as to what TeliaSonera may have done to upset Cogent, explaining instead that Cogent unilaterally cut off access in the middle of ongoing discussions between the two companies about “the future terms and conditions governing our relationship.”

“We are still in discussions about are future relationship, but I’d prefer that the details remain between us and Cogent,” she said.

Schaffer contends, however, that no “substantive” discussions have taken place since the cut off, and he sees no reason to believe that the situation will be resolved anytime soon.

“The decision of whether or not to move forward is up to TeliaSonera,” he said.

“We are willing and ready to honour the contract that was in place.”

Following Cogent’s decision, TeliaSonera released a statement to customers explaining why they were having trouble connecting to certain sites and blaming Cogent for escalating the dispute.

“Prior to Cogent’s abrupt decision to sever connectivity, TeliaSonera had rejected Cogent’s alleged breach of contract claim and explained TeliaSonera’s belief that Cogent had failed to satisfy certain contractual requirements. Cogent, in turn, responded to this impasse by disconnecting all connectivity with TeliaSonera,” said the statement.

But Cogent’s CEO insists that TeliaSonera consciously refused to honour the terms of an agreement between the two companies as a response to Cogent’s decision to expand into markets TeliaSonera considers its own.

“I firmly believe they’re attempting to keep us out of the Nordics and eastern Europe,” said Schaffer, noting that the troubles began shortly after Cogent announced expansions into markets TeliaSonera considered its home turf.

While the dispute has resulted in many TeliaSonera customers being left with an inferior internet experience, Schaffer claims that customers in some of TeliaSonera’s markets are happy to see Cogent take on Sweden’s formerly state-owned telecom operator.

“I got an email from a Telia customer in eastern Europe who said he was thrilled that the Telia mafia was finally on its way to being broken,” he said.