15 June 2013
Heart and Backbones of the Internet
This is a thumbnail description of what Edward Snowden called NSA's "Architecture
Location map and photos of the Sprint Pennsauken Network Access Port (NAP):
Sprint is the world's premier Internet Service Provider and was the first
major communication carrier to provide public commercial Internet service.
Sprint experience in providing interoperability on the Internet dates back
to before Commercial Internet services were available. Sprint was awarded
a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF) in January
1991 to act as NSF International Connections Manager (ICM), responsible for
implementing and operating a TCP/IP-based router network service connecting
the domestic NSF network (NSFnet) with research and education networks overseas.
Initially, Sprint provided connectivity to research networks in Stockholm,
Sweden, and Sophia Antipolles, France. Today, this network extends to London,
Paris, Tokyo, China, Bonn, Malaysia, South Africa and the Middle East. Sprint
remains the ICM in the aftermath of the NSFnet decommissioning in April 1995.
Sprint also provides high-speed connections to the Internet in 28 countries
worldwide - more international connections than any other carrier.
To a large degree, the ICM provides the interoperability of the domestic
Internet with the rest of the world. This interoperability with the rest
of the world includes literally scores of other carriers and international
The Internet is essentially multiple networks interconnected to form one
unified network. These interconnect points are gateways connecting different
Internet Service Providers' (ISPs) networks together. This network of
internetworked ISPs communicates through high-speed Network Access Point
(NAPs), the backbone of the Internet. Sprint supports both public NAP and
private peering connections, and currently provides the public New York NAP
service in Sprint's Pennsauken, NJ office. Sprint IP Service currently far
exceeds the Government's stated interoperability requirements.
Currently, the heart of the Internet remains the four "official" network
access points or NAPs in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Pennsauken,
NJ. The NAPs provide a place of interconnection; anyone at a NAP can choose
to interconnect with anyone else there. This relationship, called a basic
agreement to allow the agreeing ISP traffic to transit the backbone. Sprint
has a presence at all of the NAPs and other major connection points. Our
peering relationships with the NAPs and the peering relationships with the
other possible FTS2001 contractors ensures the Government that a user of
IPS service from one FTS2001 contractor will be able to communicate through
SprintIP service. This relationship also ensures the Government that E-mail
and other TCP/IP messages sent across town will be delivered by way of the
nearest connection rather than transmitting it across country on SprintIP
services and then delivering it.
There are currently eight major interconnection points - including four official
NAPs. Any national backbone operator has a peering connection at these
interconnects.Table 1 identifies the eight (8) major Internet interconnection
points. [X indicates Sprint redaction.]
This series of NAPs could be considered the heart of the Internet. Currently,
most backbone operators are cross-connecting with other backbones at virtually
any location of convenience where they both have equipment rooms. There are
several hundred of these "private" exchanges in operation at this point and
all operate under a common peering arrangement.