NSFNET gave us the early commercial topology of the Internet, with Tier 1 backbones, Tier 2 regional networks, and Tier 3 local networks. NSFNET gave us our first dedicated backbone and the first mbps backbone. It also gave us the crucial Network Access Points, known today as Internet eXchange Points. The contractors that bid for the opportunity to build and operate NSF's network learned from their experience and launched into the information economy as the leading commercial Internet networks. A government investment of millions of dollars had a Return on Investment of an entire new economy.
In 1995, MERIT published the NSFNET Final Report, in which it was stated:
"Infrastructures, for purposes such as transportation and communication, have long been vital to national welfare. They knit together a country's economy by facilitating the movement of people, products, services, and ideas, and play important roles in national security." p. 4.The report concluded:
"Since the earliest days of the telegraph and the telephone, history tells us that the arrival of each new communications medium has been accompanied by grandiose claims of its potential benefits to society. In order to take advantage of the exciting opportunities afforded by today's technology, it is imperative that policy makers examine the development of the NSFNET and the Internet. We are still far away from a truly open, interoperable, and ubiquitous global information infrastructure accessible to all, "from everyone in every place to everyone in every other place, a system as universal and as extensive as the highway system of the country which extends from every man's door to every other man's door," in the words of Theodore Vail, president of AT&T in 1907. However, the Internet has brought us a giant step closer to realizing the promise of high-speed networking, one of the most revolutionary communications technologies ever created. As part of this phenomenon, the NSFNET backbone service provided a model for future partnerships as well as a legacy of technology for the world." p. 43.