One of several major Internet connection points in the United States. NAPs tie all of the ISPs together so that, for example, an AT&T user in Portland, Oregon, can reach the Web site of a Bell South customer in Miami, Florida. Originally, the NSF created and supported four NAPs (in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.). The program was part of the transition from the government-financed Internet to a commercially operated Internet. Since that time, several new NAPs have arrived, including WorldCom's MAE West, in San Jose, California, and ICS Network Systems' "Big East" in Washington, D.C. The NAPs provide major switching facilities that serve the public in general.
For example, the vBNS network, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for research purposes, makes use of the NAPs. Much Internet traffic is handled without involving NAPs, though, using "peering" arrangements and interconnections within geographic regions.