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Lesson 3 Infrastructure of the Internet
Objective Describe the infrastructure of the Internet.

Infrastructure of the Internet

The infrastructure of the Internet is a complex and expansive network that enables global connectivity and communication. It consists of numerous components, each serving a unique function, to facilitate the seamless exchange of data across vast distances. At its core, the Internet's infrastructure can be dissected into several key elements:
  1. End-User Devices: These are the entry points to the Internet for users, encompassing a wide range of devices such as smartphones, computers, tablets, and smart devices. They connect to the Internet to access and share information.
  2. Local Area Networks (LANs): LANs are networks within limited areas, such as homes, schools, or office buildings. They connect end-user devices to the wider Internet through routers and switches, enabling devices within a close geographical area to communicate with each other.
  3. Internet Service Providers (ISPs): ISPs serve as the gateway to the Internet for end-users and organizations. They provide the necessary infrastructure and services for accessing the Internet, including broadband, fiber, satellite, or cellular connections. ISPs manage vast networks that connect to each other and to the broader Internet backbone.
  4. Internet Backbone: The backbone comprises high-capacity data routes and networks that interconnect different regions, countries, and continents. It is maintained by major telecommunications companies, known as Tier 1 ISPs, which facilitate the long-distance transmission of data across the Internet. These backbones consist of fiber-optic cables, including undersea cables, and high-speed routers that route data efficiently across vast distances.
  5. Data Centers: These are centralized repositories for the storage, management, and dissemination of data and applications. Data centers house servers and other hardware required for hosting websites, cloud services, and online applications. They are strategically located to ensure reliability, efficiency, and reduced latency in data access.
  6. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs): CDNs are networks of servers distributed geographically to optimize the delivery of web content and services. By caching content at edge locations closer to end-users, CDNs reduce latency and improve access speed to data, such as videos, images, and web pages.
  7. Peering and Exchange Points: These are physical or virtual infrastructure points where different networks meet to exchange traffic. Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) allow ISPs and other network providers to interconnect and exchange data, improving efficiency and reducing the distance data must travel.
  8. Protocols and Standards: The Internet operates on a set of protocols and standards that ensure interoperability and communication between different systems and networks. The most fundamental of these is the Internet Protocol (IP), which dictates how data is addressed and routed across networks. The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) ensures reliable delivery of data.
  9. Regulatory and Governance Bodies: Organizations such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) oversee the global Internet's domain name system (DNS) and IP address allocation, ensuring a unified and orderly structure. Other bodies, like the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), develop and promote voluntary Internet standards and protocols.

The Internet's infrastructure is characterized by its decentralized nature, with no single entity owning or controlling the entire network. This design ensures resilience, scalability, and flexibility, allowing the Internet to accommodate an ever-growing number of users and services. The continuous evolution of technologies, such as the deployment of 5G networks and advances in satellite Internet, further extends the Internet's reach and capabilities, reinforcing its role as a fundamental infrastructure of the modern world.

The Internet is a global network of computers that can communicate across different computer platforms using a standardized addressing scheme. Or put simply, a group of computers that can accomplish something because they share a common bond (TCP/IP). Local area networks (LANs) are connected to form the global Internet.
The internet is a global collection of networks, both big and small. These networks connect together in many different ways to form the single entity that we know as the Internet. The very name comes from this idea of interconnected networks since its beginning in 1969. By December 5, 1969, a 4-node network was connected by adding the University of Utah and the University of California, Santa Barbara. Building on ideas that were developed at ALOHAnet, the ARPANET grew rapidly.
However, just because nobody owns the Internet, this does not mean it is not monitored and maintained in different ways. The Internet Society, a non-profit group established in 1992, oversees the formation of the policies and protocols that define how we use and interact with the Internet. The figure below illustrates a historical representation of the Internet.
The Internet
The Internet


Internet activity requires an underlying infrastructure. That infrastructure is local hardware and software devices linked to distant, or global, hardware and software devices. We saw how the OSI model conceptually depicts this portion of the infrastructure. An example: Think of the differences between the components of a Mac and a PC. There's a combination of local and global parts. The same is true for the Internet and its component devices. Protocols and naming schemes in turn ensure that the operation among the devices is conducted smoothly. At a more physical level, there are two core structural components of the Internet, which you will learn about in a separate lesson. These components actually transport the Internet's data in a global setting:
  1. Backbone
  2. Network Access Points (NAPs)
In the next lesson, you will learn the purpose of backbones and Network Access Points and how they relate to each other.

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