Vice President Hails Private-Sector Internet2 Donations

Vice President Al Gore last week applauded the donations from several major companies looking to create Internet2, an advanced Internet backbone network. Gore made public Qwest Communications' donation of 16,000 miles of fiber-optic network lines — worth more than $500 million — and Cisco Systems Inc.'s and Nortel's offers to make contributions of equipment.

Internet2 is being spearheaded by the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (www.ucaid.edu). UCAID is coordinating the efforts of more than 120 participating universities. The organization is focused specifically on developing an Internet Protocol network it calls Abilene. "The Abilene research and education network will become the most advanced native IP backbone network available to universities participating in UCAID's Internet2 project," according to the Abilene project announcement.

Initial Abilene operation is slated for the end of 1998, and full deployment is targeted for late 1999. The network will connect existing advanced research and education networks and will plug into the very high-performance Backbone Network Service (vBNS). It also will play a prominent role in the federal government's Next Generation Internet (NGI). The vBNS network is being developed under a cooperative agreement between MCI and the National Science Foundation. Together vBNS and Abilene will serve as the spine for advanced networking among the research and education community.

Abilene will facilitate applications in the following areas: virtual laboratories, digital libraries, distance learning and tele-immersion. "Just as the first public Internet revolutionized the way the world works and plays, the Abilene network, powered by Qwest, Cisco and Nortel, will give researchers the security, reliability and capacity to take technological innovation to a new plateau," said Joseph Nacchio, president and CEO of Qwest.

In announcing the Internet2 advances, Gore also made reference to the Defense Department's recent efforts to fund NGI. Specifically, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will invest $50 million in 27 research projects. NGI is a federal effort to spur experimental high-speed networking; it aims to make the current Internet faster and more secure.

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