By Bob Cannon, Senior Telecommunications Policy Analyst, NTIA
My name is Bob. I am number six.
Do you believe me?
If I were wrong… would you know?
In the 1960s television show “The Prisoner,” retired secret agents are held captive in a place known only as “The Village” and assigned numbers to replace their identities. Protagonist “Number Six” quickly learns that what one claims to be and what one is can be two different things.
Internet routing is a bit like life in The Village. One network whispers to a second that it is number six. The second network then tells two other networks that it can send traffic to number six. And those two networks tell two more networks that they can reach the network that reaches number six. And so on. Networks make routing decisions based on these whispers, following the path back to the network that says it is number six. Sometimes those whispers are right. Sometimes they are wrong. When they are wrong, Internet traffic can go astray.