In 2004, a visionary group created the ‘Latin Internet Exchange’ foundation. Their target: to investigate whether Curaçao could become a hub for Internet traffic between nearby South America, Europe and America. The group saw commercial exploitation potential for submarine cables, which came on shore in Curaçao. This island has always been a logistical hub, featuring a major international harbour and airport. Acting as a hub for the Internet seemed like a logical extension of that. A newspaper ad was placed, calling for companies to conduct a feasibility study to see whether this was a viable option.
“I read that ad and thought: “That's perfect for me!”, says Nico Schepers. “Pioneering, building bridges and coordinating stakeholder interests are things I really enjoy. I had only recently established myself on Curaçao. That’s where I’m originally from, but I had studied and worked in the Netherlands for some years. To my delight I was selected for this project.”
‘Go and do it!’
In the early days, there was little support for setting up an Internet Exchange and the conditions were less than ideal. Internet penetration was still very low and so were traffic volumes. The level of ambition was much higher than conditions would allow. “Initially, the idea was to focus on Latin America, but we first targeted Curaçao. The idea was to expand to other areas later. By 2007, Internet penetration was higher and the market had become more mature. We were able to deploy CAR-IX and focus on the Caribbean. An experienced strategic partner was required, so we contacted AMS-IX.”
AMS-IX was prepared to help set up CAR-IX as a facilitator. Curaçao’s Logistical Development Projects Foundation (Stichting Logistieke Ontwikkeling Projecten) provided financial support. Main supporters at the time were the Managing Director of the Telecommunications and Postal Agency (Bureau Telecom en Post), the regulator on Curaçao, and the responsible Minister of Telecommunications. “When we presented our proposal, they just said: “Go and do it”, which we did with the help of AMS-IX. Equipment was delivered, an association was set up as a limited company, just like in Amsterdam, and CAR-IX was born.”
Integral part of AMS-IX
After the technical operations contract between AMS-IX and CAR-IX had expired, management changed. As AMS-IX already had experience with the deployment of an exchange in Hong Kong and had the reputation of being a global brand that benefits smaller businesses, the CAR-IX Association decided to continue the relationship. Since April 2013 the Caribbean Internet Exchange (CAR-IX) has been an integral part of the AMS-IX environment and it has been renamed AMS-IX Caribbean. AMS-IX is fully responsible for the management and operations of the peering platform, and can, therefore, coordinate all activities more closely, work more efficiently and further contribute to the Internet ecosystem in the Caribbean area.
“The professionalism of AMS-IX really impressed me. They know exactly what they’re doing, based on many years of experience. AMS-IX worked very well with all parties involved. Everything went very quickly and professionally, and they’re still very supportive. Moreover, they transferred a great deal of knowledge, and did all they could to help set up a professional Internet Exchange. A professional and reliable partner!”
The Internet user experience has improved tremendously in Curaçao, resulting in vastly increased usage. The number of both fixed and mobile Internet connections has increased significantly. The amount of traffic has grown by 100 % over the last 12 months. People are even starting to create their own content, and social media usage and online entrepreneurship have increased. Moreover, the average download speed on Curaçao has gone up significantly in recent years and is now at the same level as the world average. The island of Bonaire is now connected and enjoys the benefits of the exchange. Aruba may also connect soon and the exchange foresees further regional expansion.
“Scale is the biggest difference between AMS-IX in Amsterdam and in Curaçao. The Caribbean Internet market is relatively small and fragmented, with varying legislation, but offers plenty of scope for growth. We started with 10 and 100MB ports. In a year or two this has increased to 1GE. Now we have our first 10GE port customer. Data transfer rates are high and latency has been reduced significantly. We now have clients such as Google and Akamai, which helps attract new customers. AMS-IX Caribbean will help this growth develop further by taking part in relevant conferences and showing what we’ve achieved.”
AMS-IX Caribbean is being promoted internationally at events such as Capacity Caribbean and LACNIC. Maintaining and increasing visibility are seen as vital. “Because we are in a small region, we must be proactive and keep up with the big guys. In the future, I hope to do more in the area of peering. As a team I think we have achieved very good results so far which we can be proud of!”
Together with AMS-IX, Nico Scheper set up CAR-IX (Caribbean Internet Exchange), which later became an integral part of AMS-IX and was renamed to AMS-IX Caribbean. Currently, he is the Business Development Manager of this exchange and owner of AGAYA N.V.