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technology began with government-funded networking efforts, including
the National Science Foundations NSFNET, that have now matured and
spurred vast commercial development.
From the beginning, computer networks were expected to expand the reach
and grasp of researchers, providing better access to computer resources
and easier transfer of information. NSF made this expectation a reality.
Beginning by funding a network linking computer science departments, NSF
moved on to develop the high-speed backbone, called NSFNET, whichconnected
to five NSF- supported supercomputers.
NSF support also encouraged the development of regional networks to connect
with the backbone NSFNET.
Major research funding
More recently, NSF has funded a new backbone and is continuing to play
the major role it has fulfilled historically in developing Internet technology
for both scientists and the public. Between 1950 and 1971, NSF made more
than 400 awards for computing facilities under the Computer Center Facilities
program, totaling more than $60 million.
By the late 1980s, NSF support for computer and information science and
engineering amounted to well over $100 million annually.
The first "internet" was the interconnection of unrelated networks
consisting of the
Advanced Research Projects Agency's ARPANET, run by DARPA, in 1977. Over
the next decade, increasing NSF involvement led to a three-tiered system
of internetworks that were managed by a mix of universities, nonprofit
organizations and government agencies.
By the mid-1980s, primary financial support of the Internet had been assumed
by NSF. The increasing demand for advanced networking and research computing
capabilities was met by NSFNET and the foundation's Partnerships for Advanced
In March 1991,the
NSFNET acceptable use policy was altered to allow commercial traffic;
in a recent cover story, Business Week pointed to this as a seminal
moment for the information-based economy, which not altogether coincidentally
began its record expansion in that very month.
In 1995, with the private, commercial market thriving, NSF decommissioned
the NSFNET, allowing for public use of the Internet. Regional, national
and international computer networks became widely accessible because companies
began publicly offering gateway service for which NSF had until then been
among a handful of customers.
A forerunner, NSFNET, served the research and education community and
demonstrated the effectiveness of networking technology. Now, millions
use the Internet daily. NSF continues to fund research to promote high-performance
networking for scientific research and education, helping to develop technologies
that will be the next-generation drivers of information-based commerce.