The Internet originated in 1969, in the midst of the Cold War, as a "nuke-proof" communications network. As you might guess, it received most of its early financing from the U.S. defense department. Now, however, it consists of countless networks and computers across the world that allow millions of people to share information. The lines that carry the majority of the information are know as the Internet backbone. While the government used to run things, now major Internet service providers (ISPs) such as MCI, GTE, Sprint, UUNET, and ANS own portions of the backbone--a good thing as they have the motivation and the revenue to maintain the quality of these large networks. For answers to commonly asked questions about the Internet, check out our recent feature: "20 questions: how the Net works."