History of private peering and exchanges?

Between fading memories and NDA's, it can be hard to track how things happened...but I'm trying to put together some timelines about interprovider peering both through private peering (i.e., at what point it became economic to meet other than through ARPANET/NSFNET) and at exchanges.

In the beginning, of course, there was the ARPANET.

Then there was the NSFNET. The NAPs were the first recognizable exchange points, with AUPs. NAPs were linked by VBNS.

CIX came later, without the AUP restrictions of NSFNET. My impression is that bandwidth into it, at first, was quite limited.

At some point, there started to be a business case for large providers to interconnect with bilateral private links as well as at exchanges. When did such links first get used for commercial traffic? In the beginning, were they short-haul connections between cages in exchanges, or WAN links between major provider hubs? I'm referring here only to interprovider links, not to transit customers.

Also in the timeline was the advent of true "local" or "metro" exchanges. Going through the archives, the first I see was Tucson. Was that indeed the first cooperative exchange intended to reduce backhaul?

I think you left out a few intermediate steps like:

- MILNET and the ARPANET-MILNET Mailbridge gateways.

- The Wideband Net

- CSnet

- The NASA Science Internet

- The various supercomputer-center centric networks (e.g. JVNCnet)

Miles Fidelman

Points well made. Perhaps I should clarify that my initial goal was more to track the evolution of commercial services. There's no question that individual academic and government networks preceded commercialization. For that matter, the evolution of regionals from a cooperative to a commercial model also isn't simple.

Thanks to all from whom I'm getting responses. Several people have pointed out that various key events in this history haven't really been written down, and I hope I can pull some of these together and make them available to the community.

There is some background and history available at:


While the vBNS connected the NAPs, very few organizations were allowed to use the vBNS and so most traffic exchanged at the NAPs was from commercial networks.

My (less than perfect) memory is that private exchanges between commercial backbones started to get serious in late 1995 and 1996 when some NAPs for some periods of time were or were perceived to be bottlenecks. Some of the first were between internetMCI and other networks (SprintNet, uunet, ...).

You need to work the federal exchange points (FIXs) into your history and the MAEs.

Some other history collections:


   -Jeff Ogden