The Only People That Showed Up for the Race

“It was like we were the only people who showed up for a race,” said Mike Leber, owner of Hurricane Electric, as he explained how their early focus on IPv6 differentiated their offering from larger, better funded public and venture-based companies. This interview, filmed at the Telecom Council’s TC3 Summit, was a bit of reunion for this author, as my introduction to Mike Leber was some 20 years ago, when this Internet pioneer had a small presence in one of the first Internet Exchange points.

Unlike many others in the pre-dotcom bubble, Hurricane Electric remained privately held, ignored the mania of the time and focused on the product. The big differentiator between Hurricane Electric and its bigger competitors was an owner who, as a software engineer, was also intimately involved with the technology.

As Leber explains in the above interview, this focus on technology and customers, without having multiple layers of management between decision and implementation, is what allowed Hurricane Electric to get ahead of the curve with regards to testing and implementing IPv6. As a result, according to Leber, “We [Hurricane Electric] are the largest IPv6 network in the world by number of networks connected and by number of customers prefixes announced”.

This network has grown from the “gold building” in San José to a worldwide presence in both major and rural cities. In comments made off camera, it is clear that Leber is especially passionate about helping provide affordable Internet to hard-to-reach groups, such as those in rural areas. It is Leber’s passion combined with technical skills that reminds me of the entrepreneurs who built Silicon Valley in its early days, as well as my friends in rural America who are the tech innovators of their communities.

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