For some time, the FCC has been encouraging the telephony industry, through legislation, to allow competition in both the long-distance and local-area markets. The Internet is already there without legislation, but certainly has used the help of government policy through the NSF. From a technological viewpoint, the peer-to-peer model of IP has contributed greatly to the ease with which competition has been introduced.
Today, a number of national service providers operate peer networks, and compete for the same market segment in the same geographical area (see Figure 1-8). Similar arrangements exist abroad. In the final year or so of the twentieth century, there has been a consolidation of players through mergers or buyouts—at least five major NSPs exist within the United States. Some smaller commercial and larger federal networks still maintain peer status with the Big Five NSPs, although this is likely to change in time.
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