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The National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET) was a program of coordinated, evolving projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health...

 (NSF) beginning in 1985 to promote advanced research and education networking in the United States. NSFNET was also the name given to several nationwide backbone networks that were constructed to support NSF's networking initiatives from 1985-1995. Initially created to link researchers to the nation's NSF-funded supercomputing centers, through further public funding and private industry partnerships it developed into a major part of the Internet backbone
Internet backbone
The Internet backbone refers to the principal data routes between large, strategically interconnected networks and core routers in the Internet...

.

History


Following the deployment of the Computer Science Network
CSNET
The Computer Science Network was a computer network that began operation in 1981 in the United States. Its purpose was to extend networking benefits, for computer science departments at academic and research institutions that could not be directly connected to ARPANET, due to funding or...

 (CSNET), a network that provided Internet services to academic computer science
Computer science
Computer science or computing science is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and of practical techniques for their implementation and application in computer systems...

 departments, in 1981, the U.S. National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health...

 (NSF) aimed to create an academic research network facilitating access by researchers to the supercomputing
Supercomputer
A supercomputer is a computer at the frontline of current processing capacity, particularly speed of calculation.Supercomputers are used for highly calculation-intensive tasks such as problems including quantum physics, weather forecasting, climate research, molecular modeling A supercomputer is a...

 centers funded by NSF in the United States.

In 1985, NSF began funding the creation of five new supercomputing centers: the John von Neumann Computing Center at Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

, the San Diego Supercomputer Center
San Diego Supercomputer Center
The San Diego Supercomputer Center is an organized research unit of the University of California, San Diego . Physically, SDSC is located on the east end of Eleanor Roosevelt College on the campus of UCSD....

 (SDSC) on the campus of the University of California, San Diego
University of California, San Diego
The University of California, San Diego, commonly known as UCSD or UC San Diego, is a public research university located in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, United States...

 (UCSD), the National Center for Supercomputing Applications
National Center for Supercomputing Applications
The National Center for Supercomputing Applications is an American state-federal partnership to develop and deploy national-scale cyberinfrastructure that advances science and engineering. NCSA operates as a unit of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign but it provides high-performance...

 (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is a large public research-intensive university in the state of Illinois, United States. It is the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system...

, the Cornell Theory Center
Cornell Theory Center
The Cornell University Center for Advanced Computing , housed at Franklin H.T. Rhodes Hall on the campus of Cornell University, is one of five original centers in the National Science Foundation's Supercomputer Centers Program...

 at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center
Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center
The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is a high performance computing and networking center. PSC is a joint effort of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh together with Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. It was founded in 1986 by...

 (PSC), a joint effort of Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University is a private research university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States....

, the University of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh, commonly referred to as Pitt, is a state-related research university located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. Founded as Pittsburgh Academy in 1787 on what was then the American frontier, Pitt is one of the oldest continuously chartered institutions of...

, and Westinghouse
Westinghouse Electric Company
Westinghouse Electric Company LLC is a nuclear power company, offering a wide range of nuclear products and services to utilities throughout the world, including nuclear fuel, service and maintenance, instrumentation and control and advanced nuclear plant designs...

.
Also in 1985, under the leadership of Dennis Jennings, the NSF established the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET). NSFNET was to be a general-purpose research network, a hub to connect the five supercomputing centers along with the NSF-funded National Center for Atmospheric Research
National Center for Atmospheric Research
The National Center for Atmospheric Research has multiple facilities, including the I. M. Pei-designed Mesa Laboratory headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. NCAR is managed by the nonprofit University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and sponsored by the National Science Foundation...

 (NCAR) to each other and to the regional research and education networks that would in turn connect campus networks. Using this three tier network architecture NSFNET would provide access between the supercomputer centers and other sites over the backbone network at no cost to the centers or to the regional networks using the open TCP/IP protocols initially deployed successfully on the ARPANET
ARPANET
The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network , was the world's first operational packet switching network and the core network of a set that came to compose the global Internet...

.

The 56-kbit/s backbone



The NSFNET initiated operations in 1986 using TCP/IP. Its six backbone sites were interconnected with leased 56-kbit/s links, built by a group including the University of Illinois National Center for Supercomputing Applications
National Center for Supercomputing Applications
The National Center for Supercomputing Applications is an American state-federal partnership to develop and deploy national-scale cyberinfrastructure that advances science and engineering. NCSA operates as a unit of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign but it provides high-performance...

 (NCSA
National Center for Supercomputing Applications
The National Center for Supercomputing Applications is an American state-federal partnership to develop and deploy national-scale cyberinfrastructure that advances science and engineering. NCSA operates as a unit of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign but it provides high-performance...

), Cornell University Theory Center, University of Delaware
University of Delaware
The university is organized into seven colleges:* College of Agriculture and Natural Resources* College of Arts and Sciences* Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics* College of Earth, Ocean and Environment* College of Education and Human Development...

, and Merit Network
Merit Network
Merit Network, Inc., is a nonprofit member-governed organization providing high-performance computer networking and related services to educational, government, health care, and nonprofit organizations, primarily in Michigan...

. PDP-11/73
PDP-11/73
The PDP-11/73 was the third generation of the PDP-11 series of 16-bit minicomputers produced by Digital Equipment Corporation to use LSI processors...

 minicomputers with routing and management software, called Fuzzballs
Fuzzball router
Fuzzball routers were the first modern routers on the Internet. They were DEC LSI-11 computers loaded with the Fuzzball software written by David L. Mills . The name "Fuzzball" was the colloquialism for Mills' routing software. Six provided the routing backbone of the first 56 kbit/s NSFnet,...

, served as the network routers since they already implemented the TCP/IP standard.

This original 56-kbit/s backbone was overseen by the supercomputer centers themselves with the lead taken by Ed Krol
Ed Krol
Ed Krol was the network manager at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the former assistant director of Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign...

 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is a large public research-intensive university in the state of Illinois, United States. It is the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system...

. PDP-11/73 Fuzzball routers were configured and run by Hans-Werner Braun at the Merit Network
Merit Network
Merit Network, Inc., is a nonprofit member-governed organization providing high-performance computer networking and related services to educational, government, health care, and nonprofit organizations, primarily in Michigan...

 and statistics were collected by Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

.

Support for NSFNET end-users was provided by the Network Service Center (NNSC), located at BBN Technologies
BBN Technologies
BBN Technologies is a high-technology company which provides research and development services. BBN is based next to Fresh Pond in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA...

 and included publishing the softbound "Internet Manager's Phonebook" which listed the contact information for every issued domain name and IP address in 1990. Incidentally, Ed Krol also authored the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Internet
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Internet
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Internet, by Ed Krol, was published in 1987 through funding by the National Science Foundation. It was the first popular user's guide to the history and use of the Internet. The title was a reference to the popular The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.-Background:In 1989,...

 to help users of the NSFNET understand its capabilities. The Hitchhiker's Guide became one of the first help manuals for the Internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

.

As regional networks grew the 56 K-bit/sec NSFNET backbone experienced rapid increases in network traffic and became seriously congested. In June 1987 NSF issued a new solicitation to upgrade and expand NSFNET.

The 1.5 Mbit/s (T1) backbone


As a result of a November 1987 NSF award to the Merit Network
Merit Network
Merit Network, Inc., is a nonprofit member-governed organization providing high-performance computer networking and related services to educational, government, health care, and nonprofit organizations, primarily in Michigan...

, a networking consortium by public universities in Michigan
Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

, the original 56-kbit/s network was expanded to include 13 nodes interconnected at 1.5 Mbit/s (T1
Digital Signal 1
Digital signal 1 is a T-carrier signaling scheme devised by Bell Labs. DS1 is a widely used standard in telecommunications in North America and Japan to transmit voice and data between devices. E1 is used in place of T1 outside North America, Japan, and South Korea...

) by July 1988. The backbone nodes used routers based on a collection of nine IBM RT systems running AOS, IBM's version of Berkeley UNIX.

Under its cooperative agreement with NSF the Merit Network
Merit Network
Merit Network, Inc., is a nonprofit member-governed organization providing high-performance computer networking and related services to educational, government, health care, and nonprofit organizations, primarily in Michigan...

 was the lead organization in a partnership that included IBM
IBM
International Business Machines Corporation or IBM is an American multinational technology and consulting corporation headquartered in Armonk, New York, United States. IBM manufactures and sells computer hardware and software, and it offers infrastructure, hosting and consulting services in areas...

, MCI, and the State of Michigan. Merit provided overall project coordination, network design and engineering, a Network Operations Center (NOC), and information services to assist the regional networks. IBM provided equipment, software development, installation, maintenance and operations support. MCI provided the T1 data circuits at reduced rates. The state of Michigan provided funding for facilities and personnel. Eric M. Aupperle, Merit's President, was the NSFNET Project Director, and Hans-Werner Braun was Co-Principal Investigator.

Some critical technologies, such as the Border Gateway Protocol
Border Gateway Protocol
The Border Gateway Protocol is the protocol backing the core routing decisions on the Internet. It maintains a table of IP networks or 'prefixes' which designate network reachability among autonomous systems . It is described as a path vector protocol...

 (BGP) co-designed by Yakov Rekhter of IBM, originated during this period of Internet history. BGP allowed routers on the NSFNET backbone to differentiate routes originally learned via multiple paths from the ARPANET, but also from regional networks. This turned the Internet into a meshed topology, moving away from the centric architecture which the ARPANET emphasized.

From 1987 to 1994 Merit organized a series of "Regional-Techs" meetings, where technical staff from the regional networks met to discuss operational issues of common concern with each other and the Merit engineering staff.

During this period, but separate from its support for the NSFNET backbone, NSF funded:
  • the NSF Connections Program that helped colleges and universities obtain or upgrade connections to regional networks;
  • regional networks to obtain or upgrade equipment and data communications circuits;
  • the NNSC, and successor Network Information Services Manager (aka InterNIC) information help desks;
  • the International Connections Manager (ICM), a task performed by Sprint
    Sprint Nextel
    Sprint Nextel Corporation is an American telecommunications company based in Overland Park, Kansas. The company owns and operates Sprint, the third largest wireless telecommunications network in the United States, with 53.4 million customers, behind Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility...

    , that encouraged connections between the NSFNET backbone and international research and education networks; and
  • various ad hoc grants to organizations such as the Federation of American Research Networks (FARNET).


The NSFNET became the principal Internet backbone starting in approximately 1988, when in addition to the five NSF supercomputer centers it included connectivity to the regional networks BARRNet, Merit/MichNet
Merit Network
Merit Network, Inc., is a nonprofit member-governed organization providing high-performance computer networking and related services to educational, government, health care, and nonprofit organizations, primarily in Michigan...

, MIDnet, NCAR, NorthWestNet, NYSERNet, JVNCNet, SESQUINET, SURAnet, and Westnet, which in turn connected about 170 additional networks to the NSFNET. Three new nodes were added as part of the upgrade to T3: NEARNET in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Argone National Laboratory outside of Chicago; and SURAnet in Atlanta, Georgia. NSFNET connected to other federal government networks including the NASA Science Internet, the Energy Science Network (ESNET), and others. Connections were also established to international research and education networks, first to France and Canada, then to NordUnet serving Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, to Mexico, and many others.

Two Federal Internet Exchange
Federal Internet Exchange
Federal Internet Exchange points were policy based network peering points where U.S. federal agency networks, such as the National Science Foundation Network , NASA Science Network , Energy Sciences Network , and MILNET were interconnected.Two FIXes were established in June 1989 under the auspices...

s (FIXes) were established in June 1989 under the auspices of the Federal Engineering Planning Group (FEPG). FIX East, at the University of Maryland
University of Maryland
When the term "University of Maryland" is used without any qualification, it generally refers to the University of Maryland, College Park.University of Maryland may refer to the following:...

 in College Park
College Park
-Canada:* College Park , a former Eaton's department store building in Toronto* College Park, Saskatoon, a neighbourhood* College Park East, Saskatoon, a neighborhood-United States:...

 and FIX West, at the NASA Ames Research Center
NASA Ames Research Center
The Ames Research Center , is one of the United States of America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration 10 major field centers.The centre is located in Moffett Field in California's Silicon Valley, near the high-tech companies, entrepreneurial ventures, universities, and other...

 in Mountain View, California
Mountain View, California
-Downtown:Mountain View has a pedestrian-friendly downtown centered on Castro Street. The downtown area consists of the seven blocks of Castro Street from the Downtown Mountain View Station transit center in the north to the intersection with El Camino Real in the south...

. The existence of NSFNET and the FIXes allowed the ARPANET
ARPANET
The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network , was the world's first operational packet switching network and the core network of a set that came to compose the global Internet...

 to be phased out in mid-1990.

Starting in August 1990 the NSFNET backbone supported the OSI Connectionless Network Protocol
CLNS
CLNS is an abbreviation of Connectionless Network Service.It is an OSI Network Layer service that does not require a circuit to be established before data is transmitted...

 (CLNP) in addition to TCP/IP. However, CLNP usage remained low when compared to TCP/IP.

Traffic on the network continued its rapid growth, doubling every seven months. Projections indicated that the T1 backbone would become overloaded sometime in 1990.

The 45-Mbit/s (T3) backbone


During 1991 the backbone was upgraded to 45 Mbit/s (T3
Digital Signal 3
A Digital Signal 3 is a digital signal level 3 T-carrier. It may also be referred to as a T3 line.*The data rate for this type of signal is 44.736 Mbit/s.*This level of carrier can transport 28 DS1 level signals within its payload....

) transmission speed and expanded to interconnect 16 nodes. The routers on the upgraded backbone were based on an IBM RS/6000 workstation running UNIX. Core nodes were located at MCI facilities with end nodes at the connected regional networks and supercomputing centers. Completed in November 1991, the transition from T1 to T3 did not go as smoothly as the transition from 56K to T1, took longer than planned, and as a result there was at times serious congestion on the overloaded T1 backbone. Following the transition to T3, portions of the T1 backbone were left in place to act as a backup for the new T3 backbone.

In anticipation of the T3 upgrade and the approaching end of the 5-year NSFNET cooperative agreement, in September 1990 Merit, IBM, and MCI formed Advanced Network and Services
Advanced Network and Services
Advanced Network and Services was a United States non-profit organization formed in September 1990 by the NSFNET partners to run the network infrastructure for the soon to be upgraded NSFNET Backbone Service.-ANSNet:...

 (ANS), a new non-profit corporation with a more broadly based Board of Directors than the Michigan based Merit Network. Under its cooperative agreement with NSF, Merit remained ultimately responsible for the operation of NSFNET, but subcontracted much of the engineering and operations work to ANS. Both IBM and MCI made substantial new financial and other commitments to help support the new venture. Allan Weis left IBM to become ANS's first President and Managing Director. Douglas Van Houweling, former Chair of the Merit Network Board and Vice Provost for Information Technology at the University of Michigan, was Chairman of the ANS Board of Directors.

The new T3 backbone was named ANSNet and provided the physical infrastructure used by Merit to deliver the NSFNET Backbone Service.

Regional networks


In addition to the five NSF supercomputer centers, NSFNET provided connectivity to eleven regional networks and through these networks to many smaller regional and campus networks. The NSFNET regional networks were:
  • BARRNet, the Bar Area Regional Research Network in Palo Alto, California
    Palo Alto, California
    Palo Alto is a California charter city located in the northwest corner of Santa Clara County, in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, United States. The city shares its borders with East Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Stanford, Portola Valley, and Menlo Park. It is...

    ;
  • CERFNET, California Education and Research Federation Network in San Diego, California
    San Diego, California
    San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the United States and second-largest city in California. The city is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, immediately adjacent to the Mexican border. The birthplace of California, San Diego is known for its mild year-round...

    ;
  • CICNet, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation
    Committee on Institutional Cooperation
    The Committee on Institutional Cooperation is the academic consortium of the universities in the Big Ten Conference plus former conference member, the University of Chicago....

     Network via the Merit Network in Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Ann Arbor is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan and the county seat of Washtenaw County. The 2010 census places the population at 113,934, making it the sixth largest city in Michigan. The Ann Arbor Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 344,791 as of 2010...

     and later as part of the T3 upgrade via Argonne National Laboratory
    Argonne National Laboratory
    Argonne National Laboratory is the first science and engineering research national laboratory in the United States, receiving this designation on July 1, 1946. It is the largest national laboratory by size and scope in the Midwest...

     outside of Chicago
    Chicago
    Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

    ;
  • Merit/MichNet
    Merit Network
    Merit Network, Inc., is a nonprofit member-governed organization providing high-performance computer networking and related services to educational, government, health care, and nonprofit organizations, primarily in Michigan...

     in Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Ann Arbor is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan and the county seat of Washtenaw County. The 2010 census places the population at 113,934, making it the sixth largest city in Michigan. The Ann Arbor Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 344,791 as of 2010...

    ;
  • MIDnet in Lincoln, Nebraska
    Lincoln, Nebraska
    The City of Lincoln is the capital and the second-most populous city of the US state of Nebraska. Lincoln is also the county seat of Lancaster County and the home of the University of Nebraska. Lincoln's 2010 Census population was 258,379....

    ;
  • NEARNET, the New England Academic and Research Network in Cambridge, Massachusetts
    Cambridge, Massachusetts
    Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

    , added as part of the upgrade to T3;
  • NorthWestNet in Seattle, Washington
    Seattle, Washington
    Seattle is the county seat of King County, Washington. With 608,660 residents as of the 2010 Census, Seattle is the largest city in the Northwestern United States. The Seattle metropolitan area of about 3.4 million inhabitants is the 15th largest metropolitan area in the country...

    ;
  • NYSERNet
    NYSERNet
    NYSERNet is an non-profit internet service provider in New York State. It mainly provides internet access to universities, colleges, museums, healthcare facilities, primary and secondary schools, and research institutions.NYSERNet's network reaches from Buffalo to New York City...

    , New York State Education and Research Network in Ithaca, New York
    Ithaca, New York
    The city of Ithaca, is a city in upstate New York and the county seat of Tompkins County, as well as the largest community in the Ithaca-Tompkins County metropolitan area...

    ;
  • JVNCNet, the John von Neumann National Supercomputer Center Network in Princeton, New Jersey
    Princeton, New Jersey
    Princeton is a community located in Mercer County, New Jersey, United States. It is best known as the location of Princeton University, which has been sited in the community since 1756...

    ;
  • SESQUINET, the Sesquicentennial Network in Houston, Texas
    Houston, Texas
    Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and the largest city in the state of Texas. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 2.1 million people within an area of . Houston is the seat of Harris County and the economic center of , which is the ...

    , founded during the 150th anniversary of the state of Texas
    Texas
    Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

    ;
  • SURAnet
    Suranet
    The Southeastern Universities Research Association network. It provided networking services for a variety of universities and industries, and was the first TCP/IP network to sell commercial connections, making it arguably the first Internet Service Provider when IBM Research in Raleigh-Durham,...

    , the Southeastern Universities Research Association network in College Park, Maryland
    College Park, Maryland
    College Park is a city in Prince George's County, Maryland, USA. The population was 30,413 at the 2010 census. It is best known as the home of the University of Maryland, College Park, and since 1994 the city has also been home to the "Archives II" facility of the U.S...

     and later as part of the T3 upgrade in Atlanta, Georgia
    Atlanta, Georgia
    Atlanta is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. According to the 2010 census, Atlanta's population is 420,003. Atlanta is the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, which is home to 5,268,860 people and is the ninth largest metropolitan area in...

    ; and
  • Westnet in Salt Lake City, Utah
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    Salt Lake City is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Utah. The name of the city is often shortened to Salt Lake or SLC. With a population of 186,440 as of the 2010 Census, the city lies in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area, which has a total population of 1,124,197...

     and Boulder, Colorado
    Boulder, Colorado
    Boulder is the county seat and most populous city of Boulder County and the 11th most populous city in the U.S. state of Colorado. Boulder is located at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of...

    .

Commercial traffic


The NSF's appropriations act authorized NSF to "foster and support the development and use of computer and other scientific and engineering methods and technologies, primarily for research and education in the sciences and engineering." This allowed NSF to support NSFNET and related networking initiatives, but only to the extent that that support was "primarily for research and education in the sciences and engineering." And this in turn was taken to mean that use of NSFNET for commercial purposes was not allowed.

Acceptable Use Policy (AUP)


To ensure that NSF support was used appropriately, NSF developed an NSFNET Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that outlined in broad terms the uses of NSFNET that were and were not allowed. The AUP was revised several times to make it clearer and to allow the broadest possible use of NSFNET, consistent with Congress' wishes as expressed in the appropriations act.

A notable feature of the AUP is that it talks about acceptable uses of the network that are not directly related to who or what type of organization is making that use. Use from for-profit organizations is acceptable when it is in support of open research and education. And some uses such as fundraising, advertising, public relations activities, extensive personal or private use, for-profit consulting, and all illegal activities are never acceptable, even when that use is by a non-profit college, university, K-12 school, or library. And while these AUP provisions seem quite reasonable, in specific cases they often proved difficult to interpret and enforce. NSF did not monitor the content of traffic that was sent over NSFNET or actively police the use of the network. And it did not require Merit or the regional networks to do so. NSF, Merit, and the regional networks did investigate possible cases of inappropriate use, when such use was brought to their attention.

An example may help to illustrate the problem. Is it acceptable for a parent to exchange e-mail with a child enrolled at a college or university, if that exchange uses the NSFNET backbone? It would be acceptable, if the subject of the e-mail was the student's instruction or a research project. Even if the subject was not instruction or research, the e-mail still might be acceptable as private or personal business as long as the use was not extensive.

The prohibition on commercial use of the NSFNET backbone meant that some organizations could not connect to the Internet via regional networks that were connected to the NSFNET backbone, while to be fully connected other organizations (or regional networks on their behalf), including some non-profit research and educational institutions, would need to obtain two connections, one to an NSFNET attached regional network and one to a non-NSFNET attached network provider. In either case the situation was confusing and inefficient. It prevented economies of scale, increased costs, or both. And this slowed the growth of the Internet and its adoption by new classes of users, something no one was happy about.

Commercial ISPs, ANS CO+RE, and the CIX


During the period when NSFNET was being established, Internet service providers that allowed commercial traffic began to emerge, such as Alternet, PSINet, CERFNet, and others. The commercial networks in many cases were interconnected to the NSFNET and routed traffic over the NSFNET nominally accordingly to the NSFNET acceptable use policy Additionally, these early commercial networks often directly interconnected with each other as well as, on a limited basis, with some of the regional Internet networks.

In 1991, the Commercial Internet eXchange
Commercial Internet eXchange
The Commercial Internet eXchange was an early interexchange point that allowed the free exchange of TCP/IP traffic, including commercial traffic, between ISPs. It was an important initial effort toward creating the commercial Internet that we know today.- Goal :The goal of the CIX was to be an...

 (CIX, pronounced "kicks") was created by PSINet, UUNET and CERFnet to provide a location at which multiple networks could exchange traffic free from traffic-based settlements and restrictions imposed by an acceptable use policy.

In 1991 a new ISP, ANS CO+RE (commercial plus research), raised concerns and unique questions regarding commercial and non-commercial interoperability policies. ANS CO+RE was the for-profit subsidiary of the non-profit Advanced Network and Services
Advanced Network and Services
Advanced Network and Services was a United States non-profit organization formed in September 1990 by the NSFNET partners to run the network infrastructure for the soon to be upgraded NSFNET Backbone Service.-ANSNet:...

 (ANS) that had been created earlier by the NSFNET partners, Merit, IBM, and MCI. ANS CO+RE was created specifically to allow commercial traffic on ANSNet without jeopardizing its parent's non-profit status or violating any tax laws. The NSFNET Backbone Service and ANS CO+RE both used and shared the common ANSNet infrastructure. NSF agreed to allow ANS CO+RE to carry commercial traffic subject to several conditions:
  • that the NSFNET Backbone Service was not diminished;
  • that ANS CO+RE recovered at least the average cost of the commercial traffic traversing the network; and
  • that any excess revenues recovered above the cost of carrying the commercial traffic would be placed into an infrastructure pool to be distributed by an allocation committee broadly representative of the networking community to enhance and extend national and regional networking infrastructure and support.


For a time ANS CO+RE refused to connect to the CIX and the CIX refused to purchase a connection to ANS CO+RE. In May 1992 Mitch Kapor and Al Weis forged an agreement where ANS would connect to the CIX as a "trial" with the ability to disconnect at a moment's notice and without the need to join the CIX as a member. This compromise resolved things for a time, but later the CIX started to block access from regional networks that had not paid the $10,000 fee to become members of the CIX.

An unfortunate state of affairs


The creation of ANS CO+RE and its initial refusal to connect to the CIX was one of the factors that lead to the controversy described later in this article. Other issues had to do with:
  • differences in the cultures of the non-profit research and education community and the for-profit community with ANS trying to be a member of both camps and not being fully accepted by either;
  • differences of opinion about the best approach to take to open the Internet to commercial use and to maintain and encourage a fully interconnected Internet; and
  • differences of opinion about the correct type and level of involvement in Internet networking initiatives by the public and the private sectors.


For a time this unfortunate state of affairs kept the networking community as a whole from fully implementing the true vision for the Internet—a world-wide network of fully interconnected TCP/IP networks allowing any connected site to communicate with any other connected site. These problems would not be fully resolved until a new network architecture was developed and the NSFNET Backbone Service was turned off in 1995.

Privatization and a new network architecture


The NSFNET Backbone Service was primarily used by academic and educational entities, and was a transitional network bridging the era of the ARPANET
ARPANET
The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network , was the world's first operational packet switching network and the core network of a set that came to compose the global Internet...

 and CSNET
CSNET
The Computer Science Network was a computer network that began operation in 1981 in the United States. Its purpose was to extend networking benefits, for computer science departments at academic and research institutions that could not be directly connected to ARPANET, due to funding or...

 into the modern Internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 of today.
On April 30, 1995, the NSFNET Backbone Service had been successfully transitioned to a new architecture and the NSFNET backbone was decommissioned. At this point there were still NSFNET programs, but there was no longer an NSFNET network or network service.
After the transition, network traffic was carried on any of several commercial backbone networks, internetMCI
MCI Communications
MCI Communications Corp. was an American telecommunications company that was instrumental in legal and regulatory changes that led to the breakup of the AT&T monopoly of American telephony and ushered in the competitive long-distance telephone industry. It was headquartered in Washington,...

, PSINet
PSINet
PSINet was one of the first internet service providers , based in Northern Virginia, and a major player in the commercialization of the Internet until the company's bankruptcy in 2001 during the dot-com bubble and acquisition by Cogent Communications in 2002.-Growth:PSINet was founded in 1989 by...

, SprintLink, ANSNet, and others. Traffic between networks was exchanged at four Network Access Point
Network access point
A Network Access Point was a public network exchange facility where Internet Service Providers connected with one another in peering arrangements. The NAPs were a key component in the transition from the NSFNET era when many networks were government sponsored and commercial traffic was prohibited...

ss or NAPs. The NAPs were located in New York (actually New Jersey), Washington, D.C., Chicago, and San Jose and run by Sprint
Sprint Nextel
Sprint Nextel Corporation is an American telecommunications company based in Overland Park, Kansas. The company owns and operates Sprint, the third largest wireless telecommunications network in the United States, with 53.4 million customers, behind Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility...

, MFS Datanet, Ameritech
Ameritech
AT&T Teleholdings, Inc., formerly known as Ameritech Corporation , was a U.S. telecommunications company that arose out of the 1984 AT&T divestiture. Ameritech was one of the seven Regional Bell Operating Companies that was created following the breakup of the Bell System...

, and Pacific Bell
Pacific Bell
The Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company was the name of the Bell System's telephone operations in California. It gained in size by acquiring smaller telephone companies along the Pacific coast, such as Sunset Telephone & Telegraph in 1917...

. The NAPs were the forerunners of modern Internet exchange point
Internet Exchange Point
An Internet exchange point is a physical infrastructure through which Internet service providers exchange Internet traffic between their networks . IXPs reduce the portion of an ISP's traffic which must be delivered via their upstream transit providers, thereby reducing the average per-bit...

s.

The former NSFNET regional networks could connect to any of the new backbone networks or directly to the NAPs, but in either case they would need to pay for their own connections. NSF provided some funding for the NAPs and interim funding to help the regional networks make the transition, but did not fund the new backbone networks directly.

To help ensure the stability of the Internet during and immediately after the transition from NSFNET, NSF conducted a solicitation to select a Routing Arbiter
Routing Assets Database
Routing Assets Database , run by Merit Network, is a lookup database designed to make fundamental information about networks available. The RADb is a public registry of routing information for networks in the Internet...

 (RA) and ultimately made a joint award to the Merit Network
Merit Network
Merit Network, Inc., is a nonprofit member-governed organization providing high-performance computer networking and related services to educational, government, health care, and nonprofit organizations, primarily in Michigan...

 and USC's Information Science Institute
Information Sciences Institute
The Information Sciences Institute is a research and development unit of the University of Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering which focuses on computer and communications technology and information processing...

 to act as the RA.

To continue its promotion of advanced networking technology the NSF conducted a solicitation to create a very high-speed Backbone Network Service
VBNS
The very high-speed Backbone Network Service came on line in April 1995 as part of a National Science Foundation sponsored project to provide high-speed interconnection between NSF-sponsored supercomputing centers and select access points in the United States...

 (vBNS
VBNS
The very high-speed Backbone Network Service came on line in April 1995 as part of a National Science Foundation sponsored project to provide high-speed interconnection between NSF-sponsored supercomputing centers and select access points in the United States...

) that, like NSFNET before it, would focus on providing service to the research and education community. MCI won this award and created a 155 M-bit/sec (OC3c) and later a 622 M-bit/sec (OC12c) and 2.5 G-bit/sec (OC48c) ATM
Asynchronous Transfer Mode
Asynchronous Transfer Mode is a standard switching technique designed to unify telecommunication and computer networks. It uses asynchronous time-division multiplexing, and it encodes data into small, fixed-sized cells. This differs from approaches such as the Internet Protocol or Ethernet that...

 network to carry TCP/IP traffic primarily between the supercomputing centers and their users. NSF support was available to organizations that could demonstrate a need for very high speed networking capabilities and wished to connect to the vBNS or to the Abilene Network
Abilene Network
Abilene Network was a high-performance backbone network created by the Internet2 community in the late 1990s. In 2007 the Abilene Network was retired and upgraded network was known as the "Internet2 Network".-History:...

, the high speed network operated by the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID, aka Internet2
Internet2
Internet2 is an advanced not-for-profit US networking consortium led by members from the research and education communities, industry, and government....

).

At the February 1994 regional techs meeting in San Diego, the group revised its charter to include a broader base of network service providers, and subsequently adopted North American Network Operators' Group (NANOG) as its new name. Elise Gerich and Mark Knopper were the founders of NANOG and its first coordinators, followed by Bill Norton, Craig Labovitz, and Susan Harris.

Controversy


For much of the period from 1987 to 1995, following the opening up of the Internet through NSFNET and in particular after the creation of the for-profit ANS CO+RE in May 1991, some Internet stakeholders were concerned over the effects of privatization and the manner in which ANS, IBM, and MCI received a perceived competitive advantage in leveraging federal research money to gain ground in fields in which other companies allegedly were more competitive. The Cook Report on the Internet, which still exists, evolved as one of its largest critics. Other writers, such as Chetly Zarko, a University of Michigan alumnus and freelance investigative writer, offered their own critiques.

On March 12, 1992 the Subcommittee on Science of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, held a hearing to review the management of NSFNET. Witnesses at the hearing were asked to focus on the agreement(s) that NSF put in place for the operation of the NSFNET backbone, the foundation's plan for recompetition of those agreements, and to help the subcommittee explore whether the NSF's policies provided a level playing field for network service providers, ensured that the network was responsive to user needs, and provided for effective network management. The subcommittee heard from seven witnesses, asked them a number of questions, and received written statements from all seven as well as from three others. At the end of the hearing, speaking to the two witnesses from NSF, Dr. Nico Habermann, Assistant NSF Director for the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate (CISE), and Dr. Stephen Wolff, Director of NSF's Division of Networking & Communications Research & Infrastructure (DNCRI), Representative Boucher
Rick Boucher
Frederick Carlyle "Rick" Boucher is the former U.S. Representative for , serving from 1983 until 2011. He is a member of the Democratic Party.-Early life, education and career:...

, Chairman of the subcommittee, said:
"… I think you should be very proud of what you have accomplished. Even those who have some constructive criticism of the way that the network is presently managed acknowledge at the outset that you have done a terrific job in accomplishing the goal of this NSFNET, and its user-ship is enormously up, its cost to the users has come down, and you certainly have our congratulations for that excellent success."


Subsequently the subcommittee drafted legislation, becoming law on October 23, 1992, which authorized the National Science Foundation
… to foster and support access by the research and education communities to computer networks which may be used substantially for purposes in addition to research and education in the sciences and engineering, if the additional uses will tend to increase the overall capabilities of the networks to support such research and education activities (that is to say, commercial traffic).

This legislation allowed, but did not require, NSF to repeal or modify its existing NSFNET Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) which restricted network use to activities in support of research and education.

The hearing also led to a request from Rep. Boucher asking the NSF Inspector General to conduct a review of NSF's administration of NSFNET. The NSF Office of the Inspector General released its report on March 23, 1993. The report concluded by:
  • stating that "[i]n general we were favorably impressed with the NSFNET program and staff";
  • finding no serious problems with the administration, management, and use of the NSFNET Backbone Service;
  • complementing the NSFNET partners, saying that "the exchange of views among NSF, the NSFNET provider (Merit/ANS), and the users of NSFNET [via a bulletin board system], is truly remarkable in a program of the federal government"; and
  • making 17 "recommendations to correct certain deficiencies and strengthen the upcoming re-solicitation."

External links