The amount of Internet content and users has grown exponentially since the early 1990s creation of the World Wide Web. But Internet infrastructure has hardly kept pace. If you've been upgrading your equipment like mad but are still frustrated with the speed and quality of content retrieval, don't despair. While it may take awhile, there's hope for the future in two exciting initiatives for the next, best Internet.
In 1995, university faculty and researchers became impatient with the clogging of their Internet "airwaves." After all, the Net had been created in the sixties for more serious endeavors than e-mail, chat rooms, and personal web sites. In October 1996, thirty-four of these universities formed the Internet2 (I2) consortium and created the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID) to manage its projects. There are now over 150 member universities plus corporate and federal government partners. In April 1999, Microsoft became an official member, joining other corporations such as AT&T, MCIWorldcom, Lucent, IBM, and Cisco. These are not idle commitments. Regular membership is $25,000/year, but universities have to pledge at least $500,000 annually and corporate partners at least $1 million. Millions more have been contributed by all the members in the form of software, hardware and expertise. International affiliates include research and for-profit organizations from the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, Israel, Mexico and more, and even the Survivors of the Shoah-Visual History Foundation was willing to contribute $10,000 to be part of this exciting effort.
The mission of Internet2 is to enhance the present Internet with new software applications and technologies. These are being developed on high bandwidth test- beds that avoid the clogged arteries of the commercial "world wide wait." That term bandwidth is one of the keys to the enhanced applications that will make us all healthier and happier, but more on that later.
Next Generation Internet
The federally funded Next Generation Internet (NGI) project (http://www.ngi.gov/) exists parallel to and complementary with Internet2. Announced in October 1997 with a $300 million commitment over three years, the NGI also provides some funding to its sister project. The key difference is that the NGI focuses on the needs of participating federal agencies. These are the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (whose predecessor...