The Eastern Caribbean Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis has become the latest country in the region to launch a local Internet Exchange Point (IXP). The milestone was announced today at the ninth Caribbean Peering and Internet Connection Forum, at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort, Basseterre.
The launch of the St. Kitts and Nevis Internet Exchange Point, SKNIX, was the culmination of unprecedented collaboration between the government, the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) and local Internet service providers (ISPs) in the highly competitive local telecommunication market. The national Department of Technology in the Ministry of ICT and Posts facilitated the process, with support from regional and international agencies.
Bevil Wooding, director of Caribbean Affairs at the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) and coordinator of the Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum (CarPIF), explained that the new IXP is expected to help improve Internet service in St Kitts and Nevis by eliminating dependence on international connectivity links for local Internet traffic exchange.
“Having a local IXP means there is now physical infrastructure in-country where Internet service and content providers can come together to interconnect their networks and exchange local Internet traffic. This means that data originating in-country and destined for users in-country, no longer has to be routed through the US or Europe. In simple terms, the shorter the distance internet traffic as to go, the faster and cheaper it is to deliver. This translates to cost savings for ISPs and increased network reliability for Internet users,” Wooding said in his address at the event.
Wooding, who played a key role in the establishment of IXPs across the region, explained that with the proliferation of local IXPs, digital innovators and entrepreneurs have a better chance of deploying mobile and web applications that run more efficiently across local networks.
SKNIX has been years in the making. In the lead-up to the official launch, CaribNOG organized several workshops to sensitize Internet Service Providers (ISPs), government officials, computer engineers and the private sector. Their efforts, spanning several government administrations, were supported by other regional and international Internet organizations, including Packet Clearing House, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union and the Internet Society.
The latest collaboration between the government of St. Kitts and Nevis and the CaribNOG team resulted in the installation of servers and other equipment at the National ICT Centre in Basseterre and the configuration of services to allow full connectivity to SKNIX.
Konris Maynard, the government minister with responsibility for information, communication and technology, remarked that “this milestone is coming against the backdrop of celebrations to mark our 40th anniversary of Independence. And it signifies a major step towards our digital independence.”
Maynard, an engineer by training, explained that SKNIX provides much-needed efficiency and reliability in the delivery of local internet services.
“No longer does Internet traffic intended to residents of The Federation have to go all around the world before it comes back to St Kitts and Nevis. This will be of benefit to the government as it pushes to deliver more e-services. It will also be a benefit to Internet users throughout the Federation.”
“I want to congratulate those involved in my Ministry and the technical experts at CaribNOG for their invaluable input in this venture. I also want to commend the many local stakeholders who committed to being a part of and to use the St. Kitts and Nevis Internet Exchange Point for the betterment of everyone involved,”?he added.
According to acting director of the government’s Department of Technology, Ophelia Blanchard, the local exchange point is also expected to serve as a hub for local digital services, a catalyst for innovation and the development of new Internet services in St Kitts and Nevis.
“Initiatives to connect government offices, our schools, courts, police stations, health facilities, and businesses; and to deliver quality Internet-based services now have a better chance of being implemented without the frustrations normally associated with online applications,” Blanchard said.
SKNIX was formally inaugurated in a ceremony led by Minister Maynard, Blanchard, and Wooding. Also present at the function were representatives of the CaribNOG team that spearheaded the technical implementation of SKNIC, including Stephen Lee, team lead, Brent McIntosh, technical services lead, Dr. Claire Craig, research director, and Steve Spence, senior network engineer.