HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
April 9, 2007, Herald Journal

Isn’t one Internet network enough?

By MARK OLLIG

Building tomorrow’s Internet.

These are the words I was greeted with when I visited the Internet2 website located at http://www.internet2.edu/.

The idea of starting a “second” Internet Network has been talked about since 1996.

In February of 1998, I wrote a column called “Internet 2: the next generation is coming.”

The concern at that time seemed to be with so many people using the Internet, it (the network that supports it) would eventually slow down, as the network became “overloaded’ with more and more users.

Back then there was actual talk of the Internet “crashing,” causing it to become “unavailable” to everyone.

This worried scientists and educators alike, and so a meeting was held on October 1, 1996 in Chicago that was attended by representatives from 34 universities.

The meeting discussed the possibility and practicality of creating a new organization to regain a focus on national networking issues for higher education and related research organizations.

This group made a commitment and established a project to promote the development of networking capabilities that would support not only research and education, but would also in time – make its way into the global commercial Internet network that we use today.

This meeting established what became known as the Internet2 Project.

Internet2 is the leading U.S. advanced networking association. Led by the research and education community since 1996, Internet2 encourages the work of its over 300 members by providing both leading-edge network capabilities and unique partnership opportunities.

Their goal, as I understand it – is that they desire to make possible the development, deployment and use of revolutionary and latest state-of-the art Internet technologies.

I noted there is nothing in the Internet2 “Mission Statement” that says the Internet2 Project intends to replace the existing Internet. It does say that Internet2 will be used to develop future network applications and services.

One of Internet2’s goals is to “re-create a leading-edge research and education network capability,” and not become another “run of the mill” commercial venture.

The Internet2 Project wants to give researchers and educators a peaceful “Ivory Tower” if you will, where they hope to create and demonstrate new networking applications.

I read that Internet2 is a “non-commercial venture,” but I noted that they do use corporate assistance.

Internet2 is in a partnership with Level 3 Communications.

Level 3 was founded in 1998 and is a communications company headquartered in Broomfield, Colo. They operate one of the largest communications and Internet backbones in the world.

I know of a few VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) providers that are customers of Level 3. These VoIP providers use Level 3’s IP (Internet Protocol) network for the routing of their VoIP calls.

Level 3 owns and maintains over 39,500 intercity route miles, and manages more than 77,000 intercity route miles.

The names of some of the Internet2 corporate partners include AT&T, Cisco Systems, IBM, Microsoft, Nortel Networks and others.

This improved Internet network infrastructure requires cables, complex software and switches that the Internet2 Project university members alone would find difficult, if not impossible to provide.

In 2006, Internet2 announced plans to deploy a new nationwide network that will offer 100 Gbps of capacity. This new network will be built on Level 3 Communications optical networking infrastructure, utilizing digital optical networking equipment through multiple service switches.

The latest news on Internet2 I found was for March of 2007 under their website’s “Network Deployment Update.”

They report that the build-out of the new “Internet2 Network” is on schedule. On March 1st, the “backbone” (Backbones are the main network connections that make up the Internet. They are made up of ultra-high speed lines and connections.) path between New York City, Boston and Cleveland was completed.

Internet2 reported the completion of installation and testing of equipment between Washington DC, Atlanta, Nashville, Louisville, Indianapolis, and Chicago. Internet2 took possession of the new 100-gigabit optical network on this segment and has begun installation of new equipment as well as the moving of network traffic.

Internet2’s current bandwidth is 10Gbps to more than 40Gbps with plans for future bandwidth rates of an almost unbelievable 190 terabits per second.

If you would like to look at a map of the United States that displays the entire Internet2 network, visit (http://www.internet2.edu/network/images/network_map.png).

Internet2 Network’s “fee structure” which I found here: http://www.internet2.edu/network/fees.html includes “Annual Participation Fees.” Network participation fees are $22,000 throughout 2007, and $24,000 in 2008. Any individual institution subscribing to or using Internet2 Network services must pay participation fees.

While the work being accomplished by the Internet2 Project is remarkable, I fear that this type of separated network may begin the old “digital divide” arguments from the past.

Some questions that might be worth asking:

Who will have access to this new Internet2 network?

Will the extensive sources of information of the universities and government agencies connected and using this new network be available to all?

Who will “control” the technology needed to access this new network?

And last but not least, will access to this new network be affordable for everyone?

For more about the Internet2 Project, visit http://www.internet2.edu/.