August 30, 2014 at 12:23PM
"[T]ere was a big difference between the trading speed available between these exchanges and the speed that was theoretically possible." #readingToday

What Spivey had realized, by 2008, was that there was a big difference between the trading speed that was available between these exchanges and the trading speed that was theoretically possible. Given the speed of light in fiber, it should have been possible for a trader who needed to trade in both places at once to send his order from Chicago to New York and back in roughly 12 milliseconds, or roughly a tenth of the time it takes you to blink your eyes, if you blink as fast as you can. (A millisecond is one thousandth of a second.) The routes offered by the various telecom carriers— Verizon, AT& T, Level 3, and so on— were slower than that, and inconsistent. One day it took them 17 milliseconds to send an order to both data centers; the next, it took them 16 milliseconds. By accident, some traders had stumbled across a route controlled by Verizon that took 14.65 milliseconds. "The Gold Route," the traders called it, because on the occasions you happened to find yourself on it you were the first to exploit the discrepancies between prices in Chicago and prices in New York. Incredibly to Spivey, the telecom carriers were not set up to understand the new demand for speed. Not only did Verizon fail to see that it could sell its special route to traders for a fortune; Verizon didn't even seem aware it owned anything of special value. "You would have to order up several lines and hope that you got it," says Spivey. "They didn't know what they had." As late as 2008, major telecom carriers were unaware that the financial markets had changed, radically, the value of a millisecond.

Flash Boys, Michael Lewis