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Internet: the Next Generation

The Clinton administration's $100 million plan to build the Next Generation Internet draws lots of suggestions.

The Clinton administration's $100 million plan to build the Next Generation Internet edged forward this week as the public comment period on the project came to a close.

The NGI aims to be faster, more reliable, and to offer better security measures so that more people running intranets with valuable information will be willing to hook up their networks to the public Internet.

More than 60 white papers were accepted during NGI's public comment period regarding the architecture of the network, applications issues, quality of service for users, security, and how the performance of the NGI should be monitored and improved.

A major project that depends on NGI adhering to its self-imposed five-year deadline is Internet2.

More than 100 universities across the country are spearheading the project to develop new computer network applications to help improve their teaching and research facilities. The academic community will invest $50 million a year to give students and faculty access to high-speed transmissions for voice, video, and data.

The NGI promises these Internet2 universities, plus national laboratories and research institutions, access to a network that is "100 to 1,000 times faster than today's Internet."

The white papers submitted about NGI were written mostly by researchers from private technology companies and universities that will help implement their suggestions if they are accepted.

If the Internet is going to be bigger and better, it must be able to transmit multimedia content faster, one paper suggested. "Traditionally the Internet has provided reliable transmission, with little concern regarding delay. This is not acceptable for the new classes of multimedia and multicast applications that are emerging," wrote Marjory Johnson, senior scientist for NASA's Ames Research Center.

Other papers asserted that the NGI should also be more secure and versatile for network administrators. "The NGI will recognize explicitly that different organizations have different policy requirements and security needs regarding putting their information on the Internet," said John Wroclawski, a research scientist for the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, who issued a paper about the future architecture of the Net.

"If you look at the Internet today, there is a tremendous reluctance to connect to the Net...they use internal networks instead. The Next Generation Internet should give people more control over how their information is used, therefore encouraging more people to put their information on the Internet."

Revisions to NGI based on the public comment period will be submitted by June. Until then National Coordination Office for Computing, Information, and Communications (NCO) will be reviewing the papers.

John Toole, director of the NCO, said, "The fundamental structure here is pretty solid, but the framing and some of the implementation plans need to be worked out."