The UK’s second internet exchange point in Manchester is now fully operational with the first internet packets exchanged between members. The much needed facility is hosted by Manchester University, and Jim Dixon, managing director of VBCnet Ltd and a director of Manchester Network Access Point Ltd (MaNAP) believes this is one of the most important things to happen to the UK internet for a few years. It compliments LINX [the London Internet Exchange] as the UK national and international peering point, with a high quality national/regional exchange point, he says. The problem with the internet’s patchwork of independent networks, all using the same protocols, is that when packets of information go from one network to another, they go via direct connections or through an exchange point. Before MaNAP was up and running, over 98% of UK internet traffic was passing through a single building in London’s Docklands – the London Telehouse. Any failure of the single systems means that internet traffic must go via the US but, as traffic volumes have increased exponentially, that it no longer a viable backup. International links simply don’t have the capacity to carry all intra UK traffic. Current membership includes internet service providers Cable Internet; Mailbox Internet; U-Net; VBCnet; Wisper Bandwidth and Zetnet, with a further three intend to join before the year-end. MaNAP does not have onerous membership requirements, and is open to all bona-fide internet service providers, so a rapid growth in membership is expected, despite a 2,000 pound membership fee plus 2,000 pounds per annum and additional telecoms costs. UK telephone operators like Norweb Communications Ltd and Nynex Cablecomms Plc are supporting the new hub, and telephone services are available via MaNAP from Norweb, Nynex, British Telecommunications Plc and Mercury Communications Ltd, substantially increasing competition in the local and national carrier markets.