Navy upgrades its Internet Kit with Explorer

The Navy is releasing a new, beefier version of its Navy Internet Kit (NIK) just as it
abandons a faltering program to provide low-cost dial-up Internet access to service
personnel.


NIK Version 2.0, which the Navy will begin distributing electronically late this month,
replaces an old version of the National Center for Supercomputing Application's Mosaic
browser for the World Wide Web with Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer. It includes
several other enhancements, as well.


The NIK, which the service calls its Internet-in-a-box, is designed to help users with
older PCs get on line quickly. Along with Internet Explorer, the pumped-up kit includes:


The Navy distributed the first version of the NIK primarily through the Naval
Telecommunications Access Program (NAVTAP), which hosted electronic bulletin boards and
home pages at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Center in Pensacola, Fla.


NAVTAP began several years ago as a means of providing low-cost Internet access to Navy
personnel at sea or shore installations that lacked broadband access to large Navy LANs or
WANs. The program charged users a flat monthly fee of around $20 for access to the nearest
NCTC.


But Navy sources said NAVTAP failed to attract large numbers of users, and the program
was discontinued last month. "NAVTAP ceased to exist as a program" on Sept. 30,
said Jim Glenn, the Navy Internet manager in Pensacola. "We are no longer going to
expand it as a common user dial-up service, although we will continue to offer dial-up
services to people in the continental U.S. who took advantage of it last year."


Glenn said the NCTCs will continue to assist in distributing the NIK via the Web, but
he said formal responsibility for distribution has been transferred to the Navy's
Information Network Project Office in Alexandria, Va.


Ron Turner, INPO's acting deputy director, said his staff is working to set up a system
for certifying that download requests come from appropriate Navy users. He said he expects
the process to be completed by late October.


"You'll sign up with us, we'll verify that you're Navy, and then we'll e-mail you
a password," he said. Users will then be able to download the NIK or request a copy
on disk.


Turner said the Navy has not decided how to provide Internet access to service members
at locations that lack base-level networks. Turner and other Navy sources said the service
is considering signing short-term contracts with regional commercial access providers as a
stopgap.


In such a scenario, the Navy would use central funds to buy bulk access at a flat rate,
and sailors probably would log on for free, Turner said.


For a full description of the new Navy World Wide Web tools, check out the Navy's NIK
site at http://www.spawar.navy.mil/nik.
  



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