Beth Gaston, NSF Public Affairs May 15, 1995
(703) 306-1070 NSF PR 95-37
egaston at nsf.gov
Eric Aupperle, President, Merit Network Inc.
ema at merit.edu
NSFNET BACKBONE DECOMMISSIONED
NSFNET Program takes next steps in advancing networking
Marking a new phase for the Internet, the NSFNET
Backbone was decommissioned at midnight on April 30, 1995.
The National Science Foundation, which established the
NSFNET Program in 1985, began an effort two years ago to
privatize the backbone functions. With the transfer
complete, the current backbone is no longer necessary.
The NSFNET Program will continue to lead in the
development of new technology and new applications in
networking for the research and education community, with
the emphasis placed on bandwidth-intensive networking.
To establish the NSFNET Backbone, the proposal
submitted by MERIT to the NSFNET Program was founded on the
belief that a national research network is crucial for the
future of scientific research in the United States. MERIT
proposed a partnership with IBM and MCI to provide backbone
services and advance networking technologies. The backbone
connected NSFfunded regional networks and Supercomputer
Centers, making it possible for research and education
institutions to connect to regional networks and gain access
to each other and to resources such as the Supercomputer
Centers. Until now, the backbone has been funded by the
Creation of the NSFNET Program spawned a new industry,
encouraging the growth of electronic networks that
collectively are known as the Internet. The Internet
continues to evolve, and the NSFNET Program will continue to
support the technologies and connections that help advance
"The NSF has been successful in promoting the use of
networking among and beyond the research and education
community. This has changed the nature of collaboration, and
facilitated new opportunities in research and education,"
said Priscilla Huston, Program Director for the NSFNET
"The commodity services that were supplied by the NSFNET
Backbone can now be acquired in the commercial sector. The
NSFNET Program will work to advance the technology and the
tools for bandwidth-intensive networking which will meet new
The NSFNET Backbone service has been managed by Merit
Network, Inc. since 1987 in partnership with IBM and MCI.
In 1990, the partnership formed a new non-profit corporation
called Advanced Networking Services, Inc. that was awarded a
subagreement by Merit Network, Inc., to provide and operate
the NSFNET Backbone.
"The success of this project has been phenomenal. Merit
forged an exemplary partnership with IBM, MCI and the State
of Michigan Strategic Fund, which serves as a model for
university, industry, and state and federal cooperation.
Each of the participants contributed key expertise and
resources and together, under Merit's leadership, led the
research and education community into a new era," said Jane
Caviness, interim director of the division of Networking and
Communications Research and Infrastructure at the NSF.
Speaking for the partnership, Merit's President Eric
Aupperle praised the leadership of the National Science
"We are pleased and excited to have been the team
behind the extraordinarily successful backbone activity for
the last seven years," Aupperle said. "It's rewarding to
witness the results of our collaboration as the Internets
prominence continues its rapid pace. The Internet wouldn't
be what it is today without the guidance of NSF,
particularly Steve Wolff and his colleagues."
Wolff is the former director of NSF's division of
Networking and Communications Research and Infrastructure.
He is retired from government service and is currently
employed by Cisco Systems, manufacturers of internetworking
hubs, routers, switches and software.
Throughout a transition period, the NSF is subsidizing
-on a declining scale -- regional networks that carry
research and education traffic: 100 percent the first year;
75 the second; 50 the third; and 25 the fourth. These
regional networks were formerly connected to the NSFNET
backbone for free carriage of research and education
traffic, but have now selected network service providers
>From competitive services. If the costs of the NSFNET
Backbone were distributed across research and educational
institutions, on average, they could be expected to pay
approximately $1,500 more per year for connectivity (the
average institution currently pays between $10,000 and
$60,000 for connections to the Internet). Most consumers
will experience no change in services or fees.
The NSF will continue to promote research on high
bandwidth connections as well as high bandwidth connectivity
among the supercomputer centers, with the very high speed
Backbone Network Service (vBNS) recently awarded to MCI.
The NSF also will continue to support connections of
research and education institutions to the Internet;
international connections services; the InterNIC, which
provides nonmilitary domain name registration services; and
new networking tools and applications development.
Press releases and other information are now available
electronically on NSFnews, a free service available via the
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