October 28, 2013

Weak links (technology and targets) We also like to think that the Internet is still widely distributed as Baran envisioned, when in fact it’s perhaps the most centralized communications network ever built. In the beginning, ARPANET did indeed hew closely to that distributed ideal. A 1977 map of the growing network shows at least four redundant transcontinental routes, run over phone lines leased from AT&T, linking up the major computing clusters in Boston, Washington, Silicon Valley, and Los Angeles. Metropolitan loops created redundancy within those regions as well. [19] If the link to your neighbor went down, you could still reach them by sending packets around in the other direction. This approach is still commonly used today. By 1987, the Pentagon was ready to pull the plug on what it had always considered an experiment. But the research community was hooked, so plans were made to hand over control to the National Science Foundation, which merged the civilian portion of the ARPANET with its own research network, NSFNET, launched a year earlier. In July 1988, NSFNET turned on a new national backbone network that dropped the redundant and distributed grid of ARPANET in favor of a more efficient and economical hub-and-spoke arrangement. [20] Much like the air-transportation network today, consortia of universities pooled their resources to deploy their own regional feeder networks (often with significant NSF funding), which linked up into the backbone at several hubs scattered strategically around the country. Just seven years later, in April 1995, the National Science Foundation handed over management...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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