GW is one of more than 100 U.S. universities backing a plan to launch a faster, more reliable multimedia network than the current Internet.
The new network could have enormous implications for GW and other research organizations that rely on speedy connections for information and communication with other institutions.
The super-fast Internet2 is part of the Next Generation Internet program, a federal research initiative geared toward networking research and development, high-speed experimental computer networks and new software applications.
Vice President Al Gore announced Tuesday that several high-tech companies have pledged more than $500 million in fiber-optic lines, networking equipment and services to get the network up and running.
GW was one of 34 institutions that founded the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development, an organization devoted to the leadership and direction of university networking, said Douglas Gale, GW’s assistant vice president for information systems and services.
“This is bleeding-edge stuff,” Gale said. “We’re really pushing the edge of technology with this.”
Internet2 will link GW and the other 120 members of UCAID at 100 times the speed of the current Internet, Gore said at a news conference Tuesday. Proponents bill the network as fast enough to transmit the entire 30-volume Encyclopedia Britannica in about a second.
Gale said the project will speed connections between universities and research groups in its early stages, and eventually progress made with Internet2 will mean higher performance connectivity in every home.
“This is a higher level of connectivity than you can currently find with the Internet, with voice telephones or with TV,” Gale said.
Internet2 will push national networks to a higher level, and propel GW networking capabilities along with it, Gale said.
“(GW) kind of started from behind,” he said. “But when all this is completed, our network will be as good as or better than any network in the world.”
“(The Internet2 project) continues to move the Internet back into the realm of research, where some real strides can be made,” said Dan Lavin, senior Internet technology analyst from the research firm Dataquest, who answered questions on CNN Interactive Tuesday.
“We have a two-tier data infrastructure in the United States . so research universities can work with each other on one end, and on the other end have the vast masses working together,” Lavin said.
Internet2 is an important step in the Next Generation Internet program, a project that was introduced during President Bill Clinton’s 1997 State of the Union address and is slated to receive $100 million in federal money annually for the next five years.
Gale said the project will start by speeding up intra-campus communications and then advance to links between campuses. Campuses, he said, could include universities, research campuses or corporations housed within large buildings.
Gale said Internet2 is in the same stage of development the current Internet was in its infancy 12 years ago. The program is still in the works, but Gale said the success of the Internet means people are more receptive to the idea of a faster, more reliable network.
“People recognize the value now,” Gale said. “The Internet has taught people, `Hey, this is useful.’ “
A fundamental difference between the Internet and Internet2 is the time the new program will take to reach maturity.
“The time between Internet2 being used in major research universities and it becoming a household word will be collapsed into a much shorter time span, probably three years,” Gale said.