There is a poll on WebHostingTalk on the question "Which network is the best for US based customers," and I think the results have something to tell us. But, as often happens with polls, what it can tell us has less to do with the question being polled than it does with the people being asked. Being polled are the denizens of WebHostingTalk, i.e. webhosts, colo providers, and website developers - the people who have actually been on the inside of a datacenter. And by network, they mean IP transit only.
As of the time of writing this, the results are: 1. Level 3, 2-3. AT&T, Internap, 4. Savvis, 5. Global Crossing. 6. Verizon, 7. Other, 8. XO, 9. NTT/Verio, 10. BTN.
Now, Level 3 being on top of this poll should not surprise anyone. Of all the backbones, Level 3 since its founding has focused on datacenters, they are present in more of them than anyone. Likewise, Savvis and Internap are high up there because this is their target market, it's what they do best. AT&T has a substantial presence in this market as well, they're not as focused as the others but they are there and their general bulk.
Now, NTT and BTN are present in the US datacenter space, but they tend to be more regional and have better routes to Asia, so for this particular poll question nobody would expect them to rate highly. XO is an also-ran in practically every space they compete in, so their position is a familiar one. What may come as a surprise is that Verizon - whose backbone was called uunet - is an also-ran, and Sprint, Qwest, TW Telecom, and Cogent aren't even on the list. Sprint, Verizon and Qwest focus nowadays on the consumer and enterprise spaces, not on the datacenter, and in a poll like this that shows up very clearly. Likewise, TW Telecom focuses on the enterprise space, so they wouldn't be expected to fare well in such a poll.
But Cogent does focus on the datacenter space, in fact they are an 800lb Tier-1 gorilla now and everyone on WebHostingTalk is intimately familiar with their services. But not only are they not on the list, that fact isn't even commented on in the discussion below. What this shows is the depth of Cogent's reputation problem, and the reason why they have to stay as price leader. Service problems from years ago combined with frequent peering battles in which their customers get hurt have not been forgiven.
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