Prior to its founding, access to Usenet and E-mail exchange from non-ARPANET sites was accomplished using a cooperative network of systems running the UUCP protocol over POTS lines. During the mid-1980s, growth of this network began to put considerable strain on the resources voluntarily provided by the larger UUCP hubs. This prompted Rick Adams, a system administrator at the USGS Center for Seismic Studies, to explore the possibilities of providing these services commercially as a way to reduce the burden on the existing hubs.
With funding in the form of a loan from Usenix, UUNET Communications Services began operation in 1987 as a non-profit corporation providing Usenet feeds, E-mail exchange and access to a large repository of software source code and related information. The venture proved successful, shedding its non-profit status within two years. In 1990, UUNET launched its AlterNet service, which provided access to an IP backbone independent of the constraints of those operated by the government. That network lives on in a much larger form and serves as the core of a set of products which include access at dial-up and broadband speeds as well as web hosting.