Connectivity is the lifeblood of our society. With the increasing importance of the internet in our daily lives, businesses, and education, the need for robust and reliable connectivity has never been greater. While much attention is given to expanding the last-mile infrastructure, it’s equally vital to focus on internet exchange points (IXPs) as a critical component of our digital ecosystem. Expanding IXPs to small cities and towns across America may present a significant shift, more crucial than most people realize.

IXPs are physical facilities, where networks of all types come together to exchange traffic in a neutral and efficient manner. These facilities play a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth flow of internet traffic. In today’s digital landscape, IXPs are the backbone of the internet, enabling seamless data transfer and interconnection between networks, content providers, and cloud services.

As of now, approximately 126 IXPs exist in North America. These facilities are primarily located in large metropolitan cities, such as Denver, Kansas City, Atlanta, and New York, but the downside is that those IXPs are found in only 57 major cities. This concentration in major urban centers presents several challenges and shortcomings, especially to the 17 states that have no IXP at all. This is an area I’ve been exploring because of the work I do in my official capacity, which has opened my eyes to the underserved markets that digital infrastructure has yet to touch.


When it comes to the current IXP distribution, challenges abound. I’ve outlined a few of them for you here.

  • Rural connectivity — Small cities and towns across America often lack access to nearby IXPs, forcing them to backhaul their internet traffic to distant cities, resulting in higher latency and connectivity costs.
  • Lack of preparedness — The U.S. needs to prepare for the future of the internet and the rise of emerging technologies, like augmented reality, virtual reality, and low-latency applications. Without local IXPs, many regions will remain unprepared for these innovations.
  • Digital divide — The lack of IXPs in rural areas exacerbates the digital divide, leaving underdeveloped regions with limited access to high-speed, low-latency internet. This makes it more challenging to compete globally and access critical services, like telehealth and virtual educational resources.

Building new IXPs is critical

By strategically establishing carrier-neutral IXPs in key locations throughout the U.S., we can extend access to encompass more Americans — millions more. This approach brings with it a multitude of benefits, the foremost being the substantial reduction in latency. As the demand for low-latency applications continues to surge, local IXPs play a pivotal role in ensuring users enjoy a seamless real-time experience. Moreover, the expansion of IXPs facilitates the consolidation of internet service demands in rural areas, ultimately leading to cost savings, improved connectivity, and enhanced service quality. This, in turn, paves the way for significant economic growth, as IXPs attract businesses and stimulate investment and innovation in technology and infrastructure. Additionally, these points of interconnection serve as catalysts for technological advancements, fostering the deployment of emerging technologies, like edge computing, thereby enriching and evolving the digital landscape.

In addition to the obvious benefits of cost reduction and enhanced traffic exchange efficiency, it’s crucial to recognize IXPs are the cornerstone of future-ready communities. As we witness the rapid proliferation of IoT devices, the need for efficient traffic routing and seamless local connections with cloud services is becoming more pressing than ever. For areas without access to carrier-neutral facilities and IXPs, the prospect of falling behind in the digital realm is a stark reality. This widening digital gap will inevitably have adverse consequences on economic progress, educational opportunities, health care access, and virtually every facet of our modern lives. In short, IXPs make the internet faster and more affordable. We have to consider the areas that are getting left in the dust from the IXPs going up in major metropolitan markets.

To address these issues, it’s crucial to promote the establishment of IXPs in regions that currently lack them. Collaboration between the government, private sector, and regional public universities can be instrumental in achieving this goal. By expanding IXPs to small cities and towns, we can bridge the digital divide, stimulate economic development, and ensure that America is well prepared for the future of the internet. Connected Nation is working to fix this problem, but like all digital infrastructure, no one can go at this alone.

Congress has ushered in a transformative era by allocating an unprecedented amount of federal funding to support the expansion of broadband infrastructure. This substantial financial commitment reflects a growing recognition of the vital role that robust internet access plays in today’s society. With considerable resources potentially at hand, there’s a remarkable opportunity to not only bolster existing networks but also to bridge the digital divide in underserved and remote areas, ensuring that every American has access to the benefits of the digital age. This historic investment in broadband infrastructure sets the stage for a brighter and more connected future, making it imperative to seize this moment and strategically channel these funds to create a more inclusive and technologically advanced nation.

The expansion of IXPs to small cities and towns across America is not just an option; it’s a necessity for the nation’s digital future. By creating a robust network of IXPs, we can reduce latency, improve connectivity, and empower rural communities to participate fully in the digital age. It is time to recognize the critical role that IXPs play in our digital infrastructure and make the necessary investments to bring them to stretch across all corners of the U.S.