A network service provider (NSP) is a company that provides backbone services to an
Internet service provider (ISP), the company that most Web users use for access to the
Internet. Typically, an ISP connects at a point called an Internet Exchange (IX) to a
regional ISP that in turn connects to an NSP backbone. In the U.S., major NSPs include
MCI, Sprint, UUNET, AGIS, and BBN.
An ISP can purchase a wholesale dial access service from an NSP, which provides dialup
connectivity for their customers. Customers then dial into their ISP's network using a
local access number, which in turn connects to the backbone of that Internet provider's
NSP. The NSP routes all traffic and basically provides the infrastructure needed for
Internet connectivity. The NSP builds, maintains, and expands their infrastructure as
Internet traffic demands. The ISP is responsible for its own network, sales and
marketing, and customer service. An ISP can also purchase other services from an NSP that
they in turn provide their customers such as e-mail service, Web-based e-mail service,
personal Web hosting, chat, discussion groups, and other end-user applications. All these
services are provided under the ISP's brand name rather than that of the NSP.
This was first published in May 2001
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