Don’t look now but your video is buffering…again.
If you’re in or from the Caribbean, an annoyingly slow Internet connection hardly surprises you; you’ve probably come to expect it. But you probably don’t understand why. Here’s some of what you may need to know.
Globally, the demand for and consumption of video has increased exponentially in the last few years. That includes in the Caribbean, a region that distinguishes itself statistically, ranking among the heaviest per capita consumers of web content in the world.
For Internet service providers in the region, this is a major problem. Confronted with these relatively small markets’ outsized demand for ever-faster video streams and downloads, ISPs of all sizes have struggled to rationalise the infrastructural upgrades needed for network performance to keep pace with customers’ evolving expectations. Meanwhile, your NBA Finals mini-movie on YouTube is badly pixellated, and the latest episode of “Black Mirror” on Netflix is buffering. Again.
But change could be on the way. A Caribbean-based initiative is taking an interesting tack on the headaches facing the region’s Internet users. Called the Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum, or CarPIF, it is an annual conference providing Caribbean Internet service providers and other stakeholders with a unique space to develop the commercial and technical relationships needed to increase local Internet traffic exchange in the region.
CarPIF’s value goes far beyond fixing your persistently woeful video playback quality.
“CarPIF helps to formulate solutions that address the peculiar policy and regulatory impediments that have made internet connectivity, access and affordability a challenge in some Caribbean countries,” said Bevil Wooding, Caribbean Outreach Liaison at the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), and one of the co-founders of CarPIF, pinpointing one feature that makes the yearly event a valuable opportunity for stakeholders in the peering industry in the Caribbean and around the world.
"CarPIF has, since its inception, provided a unique forum for Internet infrastructure decision makers to develop the relationships, knowledge and agreements to facilitate the growth and resilience of the Internet in the Caribbean. The forum places special emphasis on exploring how the Internet drives innovation, digital opportunities and economic growth in the region," he added.
“CarPIF is a joint initiative of the Caribbean Network Operators Group and the Internet Society,” said Shernon Osepa, Regional Affairs Manager for Latin America and Caribbean Bureau of the Internet Society, and co-founder of CarPIF.
“This week, from June 11 to 13, Grenada plays host to the fifth regional edition of the event. It is being held with the local support of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission and the Grenada Internet Exchange Point. It also has the presence and participation of the regional and global Internet community, including representatives from the American Registry for Internet Numbers, Arkitechs, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC), Packet Clearing House and the Public Utilities Commission of Belize.”
The conference opening focused on internet exchange points, network security, data privacy and related regulatory considerations.
Expert speakers from various Caribbean countries also discussed technical and commercial issues related to expanding Internet connectivity, increasing local digital content development, and supporting electronic commerce.
Drawn mainly from the local technical and regional peering community, a mix of Internet service providers, cloud, hosting and content providers, data centre and Internet exchange operators, telecommunication regulators and industry policy makers have gathered in-person and online for the event, which is being live streamed to a wider global audience.
Even if you didn’t make it to CarPIF this year, take some comfort in the knowledge that a better, faster Internet does seem to be coming to the Caribbean. Meanwhile, you might as well get back to your online video playlist. Those cooking tutorials for perfecting Jamaican-style fall-off-the-bone oxtail stew aren't going to watch themselves!