Cogent Communications Review
Cogent Communications is a tier 1 network providing a variety of services. Cogent provides Internet connections and colocation to over 50,000 customers. Their network spans over 40 countries and their network is all fiber optic (no copper).
Cogent was founded in 1999 and is based in the United States. They made a name for themselves by offering low price bandwidth. By offering lower prices on their bandwidth they were able to compete with existing Internet Service Providers (ISP). When the dot-com market crash happened, many of their competitors lost much of their market value. Cogent was able to buy out and acquire many of these competitors, quickly rising to become one of the largest ISPs in the world.
Cogent's leadership can be aggressive in their goals which leads to potential conflicts with other networks and might hurt their customers. They are also concerned about keeping costs low, which means better prices, but might also mean less quality service.
The Good Things About Cogent Communications
Cogent when transit-free in 2008. For a company to have grown from a startup to a Tier 1 network in less than a decade really says something. Clearly Cogent is doing a lot of things the right way.
Cogent has over 85,000 miles of fiber optic connections spanning the globe. Their network is "data only", meaning they they do not provide or use voice-based networks. Doing so allows them to offer a better price on data bandwidth.
Price is the main selling point for getting service from Cogent. They are simply cheaper than most other providers. They keep costs down in a number of ways. Another example of them keeping their costs down is that they do not spend money on advertising.
Fiber Optic Network
Cogent's network is all optical. They do not use copper for their backbone connections. Fiber is more secure and allows cables to be run a further distance than copper.
That being said, a properly configured GigE copper connection will provide the same quality of service and speed that a GigE fiber connection will provide.
Cogent offers standard speeds of 100Mbps or less, GigE and 10GigE ports. Network uptime is above 99.9%. Cogent does include a Service Level Agreement for all their customers.
Cogent NOC support is regarded as competent and timely. This sort of thing always varies, and you will hear horror stories about the support of every single Internet provider, but by and large Cogent has well trained and knowledgeable support.
The Not So Good
Cogent is great at offering cheap bandwidth. However, they are also known to have overly aggressive leadership that has made decisions that have hurt their customers.
Cogent Communications has a leadership that is willing to literately break the Internet to get what they believe is fair. Cogent has a history of not peering with certain companies because they cannot come to a mutual agreement on the terms of their peering.
What this means is that there are times that certain parts of the Internet will not be accessible to customers of Cogent. If Cogent is your only upstream and they are not willing to connect to another network, all the devices in that network will become inaccessible to you.
In 2005 Level 3 (another tier 1 network) and Cogent got into a peering dispute so involved that for a period of time the two networks stopped connecting to one another. This led to devices within Level 3's network to be unable to reach devices within Cogent's network and vice versa.
This type of peering disagreements continue to this day over IPv6. Cogent and Hurricane Electric (an IPv6 tier 1 network) continue to not have any connectivity with one another. More recently, Cogent and Google have stopped all IPv6 connections between the two. Customers of Cogent are unable to reach Google's or Hurricane Electric's network over IPv6.
Peering disputes happen, but for cogent they seem to happen more often and the repercussions are more sever for their customers.
Prioritization of Packet
Cogent claims to adhere to network neutrality. They state they "do not prioritize packet transmissions on the basis of the content of the packet". However, in 2014 they admitted that they do exactly this. Cogent admitted they have a Quality of Service system in place to de-prioritized traffic from content providers and prioritize traffic for retail customers.
Cogent does not believe this type of prioritization goes against net neutrality because it does not create and "fast lane" and a "slow lane" in the traditional sense of the terms.
Not The Best For Reaching Eyeballs
Cogent has been pretty open about their lack of capacity when reaching "eyeball" networks during peak times. This means that if you are going to be mostly trying to reach home users, Cogent might be slower than other networks.
Should You Use Cogent?
Cogent Communications is great in terms of price and they offer good quality support. If you are in a building that is already connected to Cogent then it would be a mistake to not ask for a quote from them. Also, be sure to bargain with their sales representative. You can usually get a lower price than their first quote.
Due to Cogent's history of peering disputes you may want to avoid them as your only uplink. If your organization can have only a single ISP, you may be better off with someone else. Specifically, a smaller non-tier 1 ISP that connects to multiple tier 1 ISPs may be the best choice.