What is the internet backbone and how it works

The internet generates massive amounts of computer-to-computer traffic, and insuring all that traffic can be delivered anywhere in the world requires the aggregation of a vast array of high-speed networks collectively known as the internet backbone, but how does that work?

What is the internet backbone?

Like any other network, the internet consists of access links that move traffic to high-bandwidth routers that move traffic from its source over the best available path toward its destination. This core is made up of individual high-speed fiber-optic networks that peer with each other to create the internet backbone.

The individual core networks are privately owned by Tier 1 internet service providers (ISP), giant carriers whose networks are tied together. These providers include AT&T, CenturyLink, Cogent Communications, Deutsche Telekom, Global Telecom and Technology (GTT), NTT Communications, Sprint, Tata Communications, Telecom Italia Sparkle, Telia Carrier, and Verizon.

By joining these long-haul networks together, Tier 1 ISPs create a single worldwide network that gives all of them access to the entire internet routing table so they can efficiently deliver traffic to its destination through a hierarchy of progressively more local ISPs.

In addition to being physically connected, these backbone providers are held together by a shared network protocol, TCP/IP. They are actually two protocols, transport control protocol and internet protocol that set up connections between computers, insures that the connections are reliable and formats messages into packets.

Internet exchange points (IXP) tie the backbone together

Backbone ISPs connect their networks at peering points, neutrally owned locations with high-speed switches and routers that move traffic among the peers. These are often owned by third parties, sometimes non-profits, that facilitate unifying the backbone.

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