Will WorldCom own the backbone business? By Janet Kornblum Staff Writer, CNET News.com Published: September 11, 1997, 7:40 PM PDT The WorldCom deal could be the first of more to come, worried Scott Hazen Mueller, vice president of engineering for Whole Earth Networks, which had been involved in a dispute with UUNet earlier this year over interconnection fees. Other backbone providers could see the growth of UUNet, known as a hardball competitor, as a threat. In turn, they also may start consolidating, joining forces, and further decreasing the total pool of players. "Like a lot of people in the industry, I read all these folks talking about a big consolidation," Mueller said. "I think this is part of the first wave of this. If your competition gets bigger, you feel like you need to find some way to get bigger as well." He had a word of caution, however: "Obviously, it's hard to predict the future. But when you have few players, you have more opportunities for oligopolistic behavior."One of the reasons that David Holub had gotten fired from Whole Earth Networks is that he had pushed the company into a confrontation with UUNet, one of the biggest corporations in the Internet business, and something that had only become bigger in the first wave of mergers and acquisitions.
UUNet had been founded in the 1980s by Rick Adams, sponsored by Usenix, the UNIX Users' Association. In the 1980s, the Internet was a closed network, and a parallel network, the UUCP Network, had been built up among sites that were too small, too poor or in the wrong category to be able to get onto the Internet. UUCP worked by having the participating computers dial each other up on the phone and exchange e-mail files in an individual two-way swap. Along with this e-mail system, there was a global bulletin-board system called Usenet that shared many of the same underlying mechanisms.
When Scott was in college, he played around with e-mail, but the e-mail systems he was familiar with were just a way to exchange messages with other people on the same computer. Back in those days, PCs were still pretty expensive, and usually people at a University shared one or two largish computers by using so-called "dumb" terminals to connect to them. You sat at your terminal, doing your work or playing Rogue or Hack, and when you got bored you typed "mail" and the system would show you any e-mail you had gotten from a friend sitting at another terminal, or earlier in the day or whatever.
In 1986, after Scott graduated college, he had dialed back into CSU Stanislaus' main UNIX system to check his mail and see if anyone was around. He had noticed, on and off in the past, people running some program called 'rn', and after finding no e-mail, he decided to try typing in 'rn' and see what ensued. With two characters and a carriage return, his world was totally transformed. 'Rn' stood for 'read news', and it was, at the time, the most sophisticated program that existed for reading Usenet, the aforementioned global bulletin board system. All of the sudden, Scott found that he could read postings on hundreds of subjects, from thousands of people all around the world. Moreoever, he could post and converse with them, and as a consequence of the way Usenet was integrated with UUCP and e-mail, he could also send private e-mail messages to anyone not just on the UUCP network, but on the Internet as well as other networks like BITNET, a University network based off of IBM mainframe machines.
Relay-Version: version B 2.10 5/3/83; site utzoo.UUCP Path: utzoo!mnetor!seismo!lll-crg!lll-lcc!csustan!smdev From: smdev@csustan.UUCP (Scott Hazen Mueller) Newsgroups: net.micro.att Subject: PC6300+ question Message-ID: <138@csustan.UUCP> Date: Thu, 21-Aug-86 19:01:05 EDT Article-I.D.: csustan.138 Posted: Thu Aug 21 19:01:05 1986 Date-Received: Fri, 22-Aug-86 06:32:58 EDT Reply-To: smdev@csustan.UUCP (Scott Hazen Mueller) Distribution: na Organization: City of Turlock Lines: 8 Keywords: 6300(+) Unix(tm) MsDos We're running three 6300's at our installation (MsDos - yecch). I've heard (real) rumors that these machines can be upgraded to 6300+'s. Has anyone out there done so? Also, how much MsDos compatibility is retained? I run a CAD system that does a lot of nasty screen hacks, and the main reason to upgrade is for increased processing power for this application, but if I can't just copy files around to do the port, there is no sense in spending bucks on hardware, unix or no. Any solid info on the + will be much appreciated. Tanks advance... \scottBy 1987, Scott was running his own UNIX system at home so that he could participate in the UUCP and Usenet networks as a full peer. When he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area later that year, he began to form active UUCP connections to anyone who would talk with him. At the peak of his UUCP years, he had connections with nearly 40 other sites, including the NASA Ames Research Center. He also participated in a private Usenet network for the brand of UNIX machine he was using, an AT&T 3B1 (aka the "UNIX PC"), and as part of that activity had UUCP links with sites in Rhode Island and New Jersey. He even briefly had a UUCP connection with a site in Namibia, Africa.
One of Scott's connections was with UUNet, which had made a business of providing UUCP connectivity for a fee. It was pricey; even when Scott was very careful in how much he used it, it ran $75/month, and he was a modestly-paid support technician. Still, it was a prestige connection, and for a while his e-mail address was 'firstname.lastname@example.org' because he was a customer.
Rick Adams' UUNet had been a community-oriented corporation. As it had grown bigger, and moved from the relatively limited UUCP networking space into the burgeoning commercial Internet, it had lost that flavor. Eventually, UUNet was acquired by Metropolitan Fiber Systems (MFS) and MFS was in turn acquired by LDDS/Worldcom, back before Worldcom's chairman Bernard Ebbers was forced out over accounting fraud. UUNet had built an Internet backbone and the associated customer business on top of wires and fibers leased from various phone companies, but despite the expenses of doing so had agreed that they would exchange traffic for free with smaller ISPs if the smaller ISPs would come to the meeting points and connect with them there. This practice was called "peering" and many of the technicians who had built the Internet felt that free peering was in the greater community good.
MFS had built some of the major peering points (MAE West and MAE East) and they got a cut of the action when ISPs arrangede to connect into those locations, so they were happy to continue the tradition of free peering. Worldcom, once it acquired MFS (and hence, UUNet) didn't see things quite that way. They had been a long-distance company, and what they saw was that free peering competed with their long-distance carriage business, so they decided that they were going to stop it, and their one of the targets of opportunity was Whole Earth Networks.
Under its new CEO, WENet sorted out its differences with UUNet. This was very important to WENet, because it had free peering with more than one much larger ISP, and this grandfathered-in connectivity was one of the assets it felt it had to offer in a sale.
PSINet to peer with small potatoes By Courtney Macavinta Staff Writer, CNET News.com Published: August 25, 1997, 5:40 PM PDT UUNet's policy shift sent some small Net providers into a frenzy, with one of them even threatening to sue over the change. UUNet eventually pacified most of the protesters, including Whole Earth Networks and NetRail, both of which cut confidential deals to continue peering with UUNet. "I think what UUNet wanted to do was a good thing for UUNet. What PSINet is doing is good for them, but it's good for a lot of other people too," said Scott Hazen Mueller, vice president of engineering for Whole Earth Networks. He said the free peering will help PSINet build out its reach, making it a more desirable ISP. "If we don't already have an agreement with PSINet, we'll look into it," he added.Posted by scott at January 25, 2006 04:05 PM