Cloudflare TV

🌐 US Internet Policy + Pangaea

Presented by Ben Ritter, Mike Conlow, Zaid Zaid, David Tuber
Originally aired on 

Welcome to Cloudflare Impact Week 2022!

Cloudflare's mission is to help build a better Internet. We believe a better Internet can be not only a force for good, but an engine of global sustainability. This week we'll be highlighting an array of initiatives inspired by these optimistic ideals, as well as stories from partners who share them.

In this episode, tune in for a conversation with Cloudflare Ben Ritter, Mike Conlow, Zaid Zaid, and David Tuber.

Tune in all week for more news, announcements, and thought-provoking discussions!

Read the blog posts:

For more, don't miss the Cloudflare Impact Week Hub

Impact Week

Transcript (Beta)

Good morning. Afternoon or good night, everybody.

Welcome to Cloudflare TV and I am your host.

I'm Tubes.

And with me is a star studded panel of Internet experts. And let's go around the horn and just give me a chance to introduce themselves.

I want to start with Ben.

I say hello.

Yeah, sure.

My name is Ben Ritter. I'm a product manager at Cloudflare and I work on network products and services.

And I spend the majority of my time focusing on making the Internet more fast, secure and reliable.

Sounds great, Mike.

You want to take it away?


Hi, everybody. I'm Mike Connell. I'm a director of network strategy at Cloudflare.

I help measure the Internet and grow our network and advocate for policies that we think help the Internet overall.

And finally, Zaid, want to round us off.

Hi, I'm Zaid Zaid.

I'm head of US public Policy here at Cloudflare and I help advocate with the US government.

That's folks on Capitol Hill and Congress as well as the executive agencies and think tanks and other folks around Washington on Internet policy.

It's a really, really crazy job.

And you might wonder why are all of these star studded network folks here today?

And because we're going to talk about US Internet policy and Project Pangea.

And this is relevant because we just published a bunch of blogs on Impact Week about this.

If you haven't checked out Impact Week, I highly recommend you go to the Cloudflare Blog and read up on all the blogs that are coming out.

There's a lot of great stuff on there, but I want to kick it off to Mike.

Open Internet for all I've got Internet.

Why do I care about this?

Well, you're one of the lucky ones.

That sounds like tubes, but there still are a bunch of millions of people in the United States who don't have access to any Internet and many more millions who have chosen not to have Internet in their in their home because they can't afford it or they don't have access.

But let's take a step back.

The US government kind of recognizing that there are still people on the wrong side of the digital divide, has put up $42 billion just for network deployment, 65 billion if you count a bunch of the digital equity programs and many more billion on top of that in other programs.

And so this is really is it's talked about as kind of the new Rural electrification act the a once in a generation chance to kind of finally close the digital divide to reach kind of the hardest to reach places with Internet places that don't have Internet right now.

And so we're we're really excited about this and you might wonder like why does Cloudflare care about this?

And one of the reasons is that part of our mission is to help build a better Internet.

Another part is that our services work better when the people on the other end have really good Internet connections.

And so as more people come online in rural parts of the United States, that's more people who will have the option to work from home as all of us do on a really good Internet connection.

And so we're really excited about this because we think that it's exactly the right approach.

If the federal government in the United States is identified this issue, too many millions of people without access, putting up federal dollars to help and they won't kind of totally fund these networks, but they'll play a big part in funding them to once and for all connect people is something that we're really excited about.

Yeah, that's great.

So just taking a step back for some of our viewers who may be unfamiliar, Mike, what is the digital divide?

Sounds really interesting.


Can you tell us a little bit about it? You take down Z?


I mean, yeah, I mean part of it is, is just that, you know, there are certain places that have faster Internet access and there are a lot of places around the United States that don't.

One personal example that I had, I went with my family to North Carolina and we were in Asheville, North Carolina.

We live in Washington, D.C., and the house we were staying and this was a year ago at this point, maybe two years ago, the house where we were staying didn't have broadband Internet access.

And the owners, they said to us, even back then, they said, well, you know, you're from Washington, you need to go advocate to, you know, so that places like Asheville, North Carolina, can have faster Internet speed.

So here I was trying to get on Netflix and my kids could watch some TV.

And we just you know, because we were in a western rural part of North Carolina, even though Asheville is, you know, a bigger city than some, there were still huge problems trying to access the Internet.

I couldn't, you know, for better or worse, I couldn't work from home from there during that week that I was there because I could barely get on to the Internet on my computer.

That's that's really unfortunate.

So looks like the federal government is putting a lot of effort into this.

Can you tell us a little bit about what exactly they're doing and how Cloudflare is helping kind of direct the money or augment these efforts?

Yeah, to put some hard numbers to it, it's about 8 million American, 8 million locations in the United States that don't have access to what's called 25 over three broadband connections.

And then you'd add another 6 million locations that don't have access to 100 over 20 broadband.

And those are the kind of the official definitions.

If we're if we're kind of doing real talk about it, you need 100 over 20.

It's 100 megabits per second of download throughput and 20 megabits per second of upload throughput to really use the Internet.

We're kind of stuck on this official definition of 25 download and three upload.

That's really not a broadband connection. And so it's really it's about 14 million locations in the United States that don't have access to that 100 over 20 connection and that's about 12% of all locations.

Now remember that is do you does an ISP claim to provide that service?

That is not the number of people who actually have the service in their home.

There's about double that number who don't have broadband service.

So half of those who don't have access to the wire or another half who have chosen not to adopt broadband because of price or lack of interest or any other reasons.

So, yeah, that's kind of the that kind of puts the number in perspective.

I think from cloud perspective, we care about those throughput numbers, but we actually add another layer to it, which is that we are very interested in what the what the speed of that connection is and define that term in a second.

But how fast the data gets from the Internet content that you're trying to reach back to your home.

We call that latency.

I would actually call that speed.

And so it does get a little bit confusing because when we talk about broadband in the US, we talk a lot about speed.

I think generally folks mean throughput when they talk about speed.

When we say speed at Cloudflare, we mean the latency.

How fast is the data moving across that wire?

It actually has a much bigger impact on how your Internet connection feels then than throughput does, especially over a certain a certain level of throughput.

And I don't know, tubes, you're the host, but maybe you want to jump in for a second on all we're doing to kind of measure Internet quality from Cloudflare.

So again, it's a good question, Mike.

Yeah, definitely.

We're doing a lot to measure Internet quality and we definitely want to kind of shape the way that people think about the Internet and their connections.

Agree 100% that, you know, a download upload is not necessarily a good measure of latency.

We're definitely working with some partners to work and understand the impact of stuff like loaded latency and what is loaded latency.

Well, like the time it takes to reach something when you're actually using your connection.

We want to understand that, we want to measure that and we want to be able to compare that to unloaded latency and see what the delta is and see some internet connections may have a higher loaded latency and a lower unloaded latency, and that just basically means their connection is a little more unstable when you're using it.

But, you know, and we're definitely doing a lot there and we're definitely making kind of that data open.

We're definitely working with our partners to make sure that that data is as open and available as possible.

But I want to I want to pivot the question.

Back to Mike and Zaid, and we'll talk about the Montgomery attacks.

So in your blogs, you talked about how a lot of these Internet users or these people who want to get to the Internet but don't have a great experience, the southern United States, because we're going to talk about the United States.

Southern United States is definitely kind of an area of concern here.

So two questions.

What is the government doing to help embolden initiatives like the Montgomery Acts?

And when Internet for all or broadband for all is done, how many new users will be able to have this quality of Internet that we call good?


And so before we before we dive into those questions, let's take a quick step back to talk about Internet exchanges in general.

And so we often think about the Internet as you plug it in to your house and then the Internet just kind of streams through it.

But especially at Cloudflare, we think a lot about what happens in the kind of what we call the middle mile, what happens in the data centers where the Internet is kind of made before it, before it reaches for it reaches you.

And some of these cases, some kind of small ISPs will pay another network.

They're called transit providers. They'll pay another network to carry their traffic to the Internet, to carry traffic from content and services providers back to the ISPs and the people behind those ISPs.

That's kind of one way to kind of outsource it.

You're hiring somebody to deliver the traffic.

Another way to do it is for big networks, and Cloudflare certainly does.

This is we connect directly to other networks to literally a wire between two different networks to exchange traffic.

But right in the middle are Internet exchanges.

And Internet exchanges are a place sometimes they're literally called meeting rooms where ISPs on one side and content and services providers on the other side can meet in the middle.

And there's a there's kind of a economies of scale and an efficiency that happens because all of the ISPs in an area and all of the content providers in an area can all exchange traffic in this one, in this one place, there's one physical place.

And so what happened a couple of years ago is some local leaders in Montgomery, Alabama, had the very good idea that to encourage investment in Internet infrastructure in Alabama to kind of facilitate an Internet exchange in Montgomery, to bring content providers like Cloudflare and ISPs and big institutions like the University of Alabama, bring them all together into an Internet exchange.

And all of a sudden, instead of traffic going from Alabama to Atlanta or Alabama to Dallas, the Internet traffic can stay in Alabama.

If you are a we call them eyeballs, but a person behind an ISP in Alabama, your traffic can go to the Montgomery Internet Exchange and it can find Cloudflare, it can find Akamai, it can find Facebook.

And that traffic doesn't have to leave the state of Alabama.

And so, yes, the last mile networks are important.


But we also need to think about how to put content and services, the API endpoints, the websites, the security services, how to put those near to users so that it is fast to get data back and forth.

Very, very helpful.

So how many?

So the Montgomery Act is up, right? Like how are we doing?

How is it's it's it's fun to watch.

You know, we have we have all these charts that we can we can use behind the scenes.

And so we get to watch the traffic come in and out. And we see we see traffic spike on a daily basis.

It's this called it's called diurnal pattern.

At night it spikes.

And then in the middle of the night it goes, it goes down.

And the chart we put in the blog I really liked because it shows the week of Thanksgiving in the US and it shows that over the whole week that traffic levels were way down, which is just that the people in Alabama were taking some time with their families and not using the internet quite as much, although the Monday after Thanksgiving it spiked right back up to where it was.

Oh, what a dream.

I want to turn it over.


So we talked a little bit about we talked about government policy with Zaid. We talked about the digital divide.

We talked about we're given money to make users better or the federal government is giving money to make users lives better.

And initiatives like Montgomery X are really helpful.

Community driven initiatives are really, really powerful.

And so with that, I want to I want to point the camera at Ben or the microphone of Ben.

Ben hasn't spoken yet, and his Ben's initiative is called Pangea, which is about community networks.

Pangea is a really cool name.

They should name a country or something after that.

Talk to us a little bit about like if we have community access, like the Montgomery X.

Why do we need Pangea?

And what even are our community networks?


So Mike actually set us up for like, the perfect segue way. So I appreciate you sort of providing a little bit of the exposition on like what an Internet exchange is.

One of the things I would point out is that Internet exchanges are great at bringing together multiple entities that often somewhat have both aligned and competing interests.

So Internet exchanges are a great place for both content providers, Internet service providers, as well as public entities like universities to all come together.

And to your point about the Montgomery Internet Exchange, that has a really big benefit for all of the entities in that area, because when their traffic's not leaving their state or having to transit out to another state, as you said, it's really significantly decreasing the latency.

And that's really the speed of the Internet that most users or eyeballs feel.

And the other thing that it's doing is decreasing the cost for a lot of networks, which ends up being a big barrier.

Any time entities like a public university needs to pay for Internet service, they need to go pay what's called a transit provider, which is kind of like an Internet service provider for your Internet service provider.

And by meeting at the Internet exchange, they're able to somewhat cut out the middleman in that case.

So instead of paying some other entity to get their traffic to Cloudflare or to Netflix or some of these other services, they're able to meet us there by localizing the content.

So it has big economic impacts.

Plus was really excited to expand a project that we have called Project Pangea.

And Pangea is a program that we have to be able to provide free of charge Internet access to community networks.

What is a community network?

So a community network is a network that often is built by volunteers and it is a generally a not for profit network to address a need.

And that's somewhat broad, but I think a lot of people are surprised that community networks exist in the United States because I think people at a high level assume that because there's a lot of income in the United States that networks are ubiquitous, but there's sort of this long tail of locations that may be underserved in terms of Internet access, either through the physical availability of the Internet connection or the overall cost.

And what Cloudflare is doing is offering free network connectivity to any sort of community network that can connect to us, as well as free security services through some of our product products.

That's pretty cool.

So like, how does a community network connect to Cleveland? Yeah.

So there's there's two ways a community network can connect to Cloudflare.

One is one is a little bit better. So the first way and sort of the most common way that a community network could connect to Cloudflare is through their Internet service provider.

So there's a financial cost usually associated with this where they would pay their Internet service provider or their transit provider for the ability to send their traffic over to Cloudflare.

The second alternative is using Backhaul.

What is that call?

Backhaul is effectively.

A cable of some sort which connects back to Cloudflare that isn't purchased through an Internet service provider.

So backhaul is provided through various means.

The community network could connect to us through a fiber optic cable, for example, if they happen to be in the same building that Cloudflare is located at.

For example, at an Internet exchange or some community networks could use wireless links to be able to connect back to us.

Backhaul is generally much cheaper, and by connecting to Cloudflare over backhaul with that effectively means is that they are able to leverage Cloudflare for internet service.

And because we don't charge these community networks for internet service, it is potentially a big cost savings for those community networks and that allows them to provide more Internet services for their community at lower cost.

At that nonprofit, not for profit cost.

That sounds great.

We love to hear that.


I'm sure that there are probably, hopefully some community network operators who are listening and saying Cloudflare is going to provide me Internet service.

How is that going to happen?

Talk a little bit about that.


So we used to have a requirement that community networks had their own IP address space.

Every single computer on the Internet needs their own IP addresses to speak with other computers and servers out on the Internet.

And that used to be a little bit of a hurdle because not all community networks have their own IP address space.

It's can be rather expensive and a burden, especially to some of these community networks that are usually powered by volunteers or people with very sort of limited budgets and time to be able to invest in this.

So we were able to announce that we got rid of that requirement, and we're doing that by having Cloudflare provide some IP address space for this project, which I'm really excited about, which means that the only requirement is that these not for profit community networks come to Cloudflare and have some way of physically connecting to Cloudflare.

They can get connected up to us.

We handle the rest from there and get them connected out to the internet and ensure that their network is fast secure and reliable.

And the easiest way to do that is to meet us at an Internet exchange and Cloudflare publishes a list of all the locations where our data centers are around the world, and chances are we probably have one close to the community network.

So all the community network needs to do is get that initial middle mile connection back to Cloudflare.

Its victims.

Great and Cloudflare is in Cloudflare has over 11,000 direct peering sessions and we're present and over.

What's the number?

Mc Over 290 locations at this point. I think you may be trying to break new news there.

I believe we're at 275.

It was the last release, but you may have scooped some folks with that.

I haven't scooped anything because I'm a forgetful person and just so feels like there's a lot to be excited about in the in the network expansion space, at least for direct connectivity.

But the other thing that's super important for users is privacy, right?

We want to not only be able to provide connectivity, but we want to ensure that users feel safe on the Internet.

So, Zaid, can you talk to us a little about some of the challenges that users may face with respect to privacy on the Internet?

So, you know, sometimes, you know, people aren't sure how their information is used.

They're not sure how it's shared.

When you, for example, buy Internet service from a company, what does that company do with your information?

Do they share it with their partners?

Do they, you know, start to send you ads either on your phone through text messages, information like that.

So users aren't always aware of how their information is being used.

And they're not sure that they're not sure whether or not they want to opt out of sharing their information in a particular way, whether or not they want to be want to get ads, want to get advertisements, want to have their information publicly available.

We believe strongly in privacy at Cloudflare.

So we have actually filed comments with the Federal Trade Commission on how we think, particularly Internet service providers should safeguard information of their customers.

Back in November, sorry, back in March, the Federal Trade Commission asked for comments on a broadband label that they were considering and what should go on the label.

And we provided a number of different comments about latency and jitter, which Mike talked about earlier, but also about privacy.

And specifically, we said that the privacy part of the label should in in clear terms, not these long privacy statements that you know, that a lot of people see on a number of products that they get on their credit card statements, etc..

But instead they should be very clear about how a Internet service provider is going to collect their information, how they're going to retain it, what they're going to do with it, how they're going to use it, whether or not they use it and share it, how people can opt out, and then how the Internet service provider is also going to secure that information.

And so right now, the Federal Trade Commission is considering what it wants to put on these private broadband privacy labels that they have ordered and they have asked for extra information.

What exactly do you all want?

Does the public want the Federal Trade Commission to require on the privacy section of the label?

So we are we're going to file further comments with the Trial Trade Commission.

Probably they're not due until probably January.

They haven't exactly decided which date the comments are due.

But we want to again, push them to try to provide in as succinct a ways possible information about how Internet service providers treat people's private information.

That's great. Privacy on the Internet is super important.

So here's a little bit of a curveball for you because you don't want to make these too easy.

So I talked to a lot of friends. We all have friends.

And you talk about Internet privacy because you talk about your job.

You talk about the things that you're passionate about. You say privacy on the Internet.

And the first thing that people say is, well, I'm sending my data to Google and Facebook.

Why do I care about Internet privacy? But.

Because there's so much information about us on the Internet, I'm sure that we don't even realize how much information is freely available, information about our mortgages, about where we live, about our children, our children's faces and names, etc..

And so we want to know, although people may not understand how that impacts our daily lives, I think that if you had a report, which I at one point did have, that this report really just looked at, here's all the publicly information available about you and your spouse.

And they sent me about a 15 page report.

And it was it was eye opening, like just just and these are, again, just publicly available records.

And you start to think, wow, anyone can find out really personal information about me.

And so that's why we want to make sure that, one, if you that you might be fine with that.

So but if you aren't, you should have a way to opt out and to make sure that whoever you are providing this information to is protecting you and making sure that it's not easy for someone to steal your identity, for someone to sell your information, etc., in any number of nefarious things they could also do with your information as well.

Well, as long as they don't find out about my retro figurine collection, I think I'll be okay.

But that's really important. That's a good point.

You know, the less information out there on you, the better. And just making sure that the information that's out there is information that you can send to give.

This is very important. So privacy makes a lot of sense from that standpoint.


We talked a lot about all of these things. We talked about making the Internet more accessible for everybody.

We're going to get into more places like the Internet's going to get into more places.

We're going to lay more fiber. We're going to bring more users onto the Internet to the level that we expect.

We're going to enable more community Internet exchanges and community pairing points to the Montgomery X.

We're going to enable more community networks to connect to us and get onboarded.

So basically, places that are extra, extra remote that can't necessarily get an Internet connection from a service provider through Project Pangea.

Big question to you all.

In the 3 minutes that you have left, when is all this going to happen?

This sounds super cool.

Like, can I get this now? What's what's the deal?

For the Internet, for all programs there.

There is a lot of new buildout happening right now with existing programs.

The biggest the biggest bunches of new money that came from the infrastructure bill, the 42 billion still has a little bit of a ways to go before the money starts flowing and the networks start being built.

They have to figure out exactly where these unserved people are.

There's a new map out from the FCC of individual locations in the United States and who has access to what kind of broadband service.

And I'd encourage folks, if they have a little bit of extra time or maybe even if it's important enough to make time to go to that broadband map, that FCC dot gov type in your address, see if they are representing your address correctly, See if the Internet service providers that are there are actually offer service to your address.

And if not, there's a link right there on it to challenge that that data.

And by challenging that data you put you put data back in, it's going to make the map more accurate.

It's going to get your state the correct amount of money to close the digital divide in your state.

And so that is something that you can do that will help make the process more accurate so that when that money is distributed, it will be it will be accurate.

I think that Pangea then is probably a little bit is more of a right now thing.


Pangea's available today. We've been doing it for a little over a year or so.

It's just today that we are announcing the expansion of it and getting rid of some of those technical hurdles.

But you know, community networks can request to connect with Cloudflare today and it's actually not just limited to the US, but more international as well.

And that they work Privacy Live now they can download it right.

You mean the broadband label?

So anybody can download Warp right to be free to download.

Get download Warp now.

Download Warp now.

All right.

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