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Schools seek Internet2 funding

Universities urge Congress to cough up millions of dollars to help them build a new, speedier Net known as Internet2.

U.S. university representatives urged Congress today to cough up millions of dollars to help them build a new, speedier Net, Internet2.

In testimony before the House Science Subcommittee on Basic Research, Pennsylvania State University president Graham Spanier pushed the government to approve funding to supplement the academic community's commitment of $50 million a year to the project over the next five years.

Even though universities are supplying the seed money for the ambitious project, they say it will take a lot more cash to build an entirely new network, specialized content, and research databases. And Internet2 coordinators are not only hitting up the government: They are also courting corporate America. Cisco Systems announced today that over time it will contribute goods and services worth more than a $1 million to Internet 2.

Citing the congestion of private academic networks, and the unreliability of the public Net, more than 100 universities have agreed to build Internet 2, so students and faculty can have access to high-speed transmissions for voice, video, and data. Internet2 was launched last October by 34 universities, and has since become a key part of the Clinton administration's $100 million Internet initiative, dubbed Next Generation Internet.

Supporters of Internet2 want Congress to push through funding for Next Generation's budget, which will trickle down to their project. The universities will use the money to continue deploying a broadband backbone for participating colleges that will allow researchers to design applications like virtual laboratories, digital libraries, and teleconferencing.

Ultimately, the Internet2 project pledges to make universities' and laboratories' connections to the Net 1,000 times faster.

Spanier testified on behalf of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. He chairs the organization's Commission on Information Technology.

Internet2 will not only assist scholars in organizing, storing, and passing on knowledge to students and the academic community, he told the Congressional committee, it will benefit the entire country.

"So many of the extraordinary life advantages enjoyed by Americans today are the result of applications of information technologies developed in our universities," he said. "Further advancements in these technologies will allow the United States to sustain its leadership in research and technology transfer, educational opportunity, medical care, and quality of life," he said.

The Internet is revolutionizing education and society, Spanier said, but the medium is in its adolescent stage. He said universities can bring the Net into adulthood.

"I am sure that some members of the committee have had many of the same frustrating moments I have experienced when the network has failed to work as expected or advertised or when its complexity has seemed too much for ordinary mortals," he testified. "We must continue to invest in both basic and applied research in networking so that this technology is able to meet the expanding information and communications needs of a 21st-century American society that will make extraordinary demands upon its educational system."

Spanier called Internet2 will "develop a new family of advanced applications to meet emerging requirements in research, teaching, and learning."

The project will also oversee development of a new application to take advantage of broadband networks and will share its results with the broader Internet community, he said.

Spanier's testimony was endorsed by the American Association of Community Colleges, American Council on Education, American Association of State Colleges and Universities , Association of American Universities, Association of Research Libraries , Educom, and the University Continuing Education Association.