We talk about “the internet” as if it’s one specific thing, but that’s not the case. It’s actually a complex system of multiple networks, consisting of cables, servers, satellites, towers, data centers and other infrastructure, developed over decades and spread all over the world.
When you’re watching Game of Thrones, for example, everyone in the country isn’t receiving the same signal from the same server in the same city. The digital frames of Jon Snow driving his sword through an undead White Walker are converted into millions of binary on/off bits—sequences of 1s and 0s. Each tiny bit contains an infinitesimal fraction of the picture, and these bits are dispersed and travel through multiple networks. Some might stay on one network, others might be routed through different networks, but when they reach their destination—your television, phone or computer —they all combine to reproduce the original picture. It’s the same with anything you view, download, or upload on the web. All of the information travels over a vast array of multiple networks.
Access to these networks is the most basic thing you need for the internet to work. The reason interconnected data centers are so important is that they allow networks to peer with each other and keep traffic local, so it can be delivered as quickly and as seamlessly as possible. Distance creates latency, and even data traveling at two-thirds the speed of light through fiber optic cables can get delayed or disrupted. In a vendor-neutral, interconnected data center, the interconnected ecosystem greatly decreases the distance that data has to travel, significantly reducing latency and increasing performance and reliability.
Network providers, connecting with each other at various PoPs all over the world, are the foundation of the entire internet, and interconnected data centers allow you to access them as quickly and locally as possible. Some of the major types of network providers include:
Network Service Providers
A network service provider (NSP) is a company that owns and sells internet infrastructure and related services. As we said before, network providers can be considered the foundation of the entire internet. These companies not only provide network services, but they build and maintain the physical infrastructure of the actual network, such as cables and nodes and routers. When customers and businesses connect to the NSP’s network, the NSP routes internet traffic and ensures bandwidth demands are consistently met. These are typically major telecom and cable companies you’ve probably heard of, such as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and Cox.
Internet Service Providers
Internet service providers (ISPs) are similar to NSPs, but they use the underlying foundation of NSPs’ infrastructure to provide businesses or consumers with services such as internet access, website building, domain name registration, and web hosting. ISPs sell their services through various different technologies, including fiber optics, cable, and DSL. They can be based locally, nationally, or online, such as Google Fiber. Many ISPs also own and operate their own network infrastructure, qualifying them as both NSPs and ISPs.
Community Fiber Networks
A community fiber network is a locally-owned and operated broadband network that uses fiber-optic cables to connect subscribers in a specific community. It can provide internet, television, and telephone services. In some communities, the local government or the public power utility provides the services. In others, the community network is open to private companies, but they must compete for customers on equal terms.
Local communities might decide to operate their own fiber networks for a variety of reasons, such as increasing economic growth and activity, improving access and quality in healthcare and education, and providing more choices and better prices to residents. Most major telecom and cable companies have fiber optics as a significant part of their network. However, particularly in rural communities, not everyone is connected to the network with fiber. Underserved communities may feel it’s in their best interest to have their own fiber network, rather than relying on a private company.
Partnering for Joint Success
Netrality hosts the most prominent, nationally-recognized network service providers at our interconnected data centers, including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. We also host a number of other smaller NSPs serving hundreds of thousands of customers across the country, such as CenturyLink, Cogent and Midco. These NSPs serve as a key foundational element of our ecosystem, providing direct access and interconnectivity to millions of homes and businesses.
To learn more about Netrality’s ecosystem and how you can become a part of it, contact us.