Hill gives tacit approval to Next Generation Internet

In reports accompanying the House and Senate Defense authorization bills, lawmakers
recommended that the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency and a team of
other agencies receive $100 million annually through 2000 to develop technology to speed
the Internet's throughput. Through the NGI program, the administration wants to find a way
to move traffic across the Net at a rate 100 to 1,000 times faster than today's.


President Clinton last October announced his commitment to NGI. Under the
administration's plan, DARPA would be the lead agency, receiving $40 million, the lion's
share of the annual funds.


The remaining $60 million would be doled out to DARPA's NGI part-ners: the Energy
Department, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science
Foundation and NASA.


The House National Security Committee recommended $55 million for DARPA's NGI
activities-$15 million more than was requested by the president. The Senate Armed Services
Committee recommended that DOD receive the full $40 million request. The committees sent
both bills to the House and Senate floors this month. But the two houses will not act on
the authorization bills until after lawmakers return from a July 4 recess.


DARPA would spend $20 million developing a speedy network and another $20 million on
network management and security tools.


Driving the NGI initiative is the inability of the Internet to meet the demands of
private and government researchers. Today's heavily used Internet is ill-equipped to deal
with its phenomenal growth and the data bottlenecks caused by insufficient bandwidth,
DARPA officials said.


The goal is to create a network with enough bandwidth to transmit terabytes of data in
real time, said Howard Frank, outgoing director of DARPA's information technology office.


"Our requirements are much higher than the commercial world's," Frank said.
"If you look at the DOD goal of using IT for information dominance, just trying to
capture that will require several terabytes. There's nothing out there to meet that."


NGI must be able to reserve bandwidth for real-time multimedia applications such as
videoconferencing, telemedicine and distance learning, Frank said. It must also support
multicasting technology that conserves bandwidth by disseminating data to many at once.


"After maximizing bandwidth, the other goal is network management and
control," he said. "If you look at the current state of networks, they're not
manageable. There's no way of predicting what their performance will be."


The Next Generation Internet will rely on the latest Internet protocol-IP Version 6,
which should prevent a shortage of Internet addresses and provide reliable access.


"If you look at the conventional Internet, it has grown way beyond its design goal
and configuration," Frank said. "If growth continued at this rate, it's not
clear at all that the technology is there to be able to accommodate it."


Although the government will fund the NGI's initial development, it will not keep it as
a government-owned and -operated information superhighway. DARPA officials insist that
industry will benefit most from potential NGI commercial applications.


"The government invented the original Internet and created huge wealth for
industry and economic advantage for the nation," Frank said. "This initiative
from the White House is meant to do it again."


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