NSF grants may fuel supercharged Net

The government agency that helped build the Internet to provide a worldwide scientific network is now urging the science community to make the Internet stronger, better, and faster. And it's using a tried-and-true motivational technique: grant money.

The government agency that helped build the Internet in the mid-1980s to create a worldwide scientific network is now trying to motivate the science community to make the Net stronger, better, and faster. And it's using a tried-and-true motivational technique: grant money.

The National Science Foundation this week announced a program to give grants to scientific institutions developing high-bandwidth Internet applications. The NSF hopes that some projects it seeds will contain technology to ease the congestion on a network that now serves more than 50 million users worldwide.

"We want to improve service for science and to advance the design of the Internet," said Mark Luker, director of NSFNET, based in Arlington, Virginia. "The same kind of application that can help a scientist at high bandwidth can help lots of educational causes and commerce too."

Luker said the grants for each institution will be around $350,000 each and will include access to the NSF's experimental high-bandwidth network, vBNS (very high speed Backbone Network Service). Starting this fall, the NSF expects to give 10 to 20 such grants a year.

As part of the grant agreement, an institution will be required to work with its Internet service provider to devise creative ways of facilitating high-bandwidth applications. The NSF would be interested, for example, in applications that use the Internet to control supercomputers or radio and optical telescopes from remote locations, Luker said.

A list of NSF's criteria for grant applicants can be found on its Web site.

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