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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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January 25, 2008 6:05 AM

My Introduction to Internet2: Talk About Big Broadband!

On Wednesday I had the tremendous opportunity to sit down with Gary Bachula of Internet2 to engage for the first time with someone from that organization.

In all candor, going into that meeting I only had vague impressions of what Internet2 is and does, thinking of it solely as a high bandwidth network connecting universities for research. But it turns out it’s so much more.

First off, it truly is a high bandwidth network. They’re currently working on expanding the network’s capacity to enable things like the ability to establish a 10Gbps connection on-demand.

The original intent of Internet2 was to build a private version of the Internet that would be five years ahead of the public Internet and would serve as a testbed of sorts for new high bandwidth applications.

It turns out their vision was wrong as the pace of their network capacity has outstripped the public Internet to the point now where one has to wonder if the public Internet will ever catch up with Internet2.

While Internet2 is heavily focused on uniting university campuses, it also boasts corporate research groups and government agencies among the entities on the network.

One of Internet2’s primary role is as an enabling tool for research projects that require the transfer of massive data sets. To get a sense for how massive these can be, once the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland is operational it’s going to begin spitting out huge amounts of data pretty much continuously. Because of this researchers engaged with trying to understand its findings will have need to get updates on a regular basis. These updates will contain so much information that even over a 1.5Gbps connection it will take four hours to download.

What I found even more interesting, though, is the ways in which Internet2 is providing an opportunity to put high bandwidth applications into action that may one day find their way onto the public Internet.

While these applications come in many different flavors, in particular my conversation with Gary focused on what’s happening with two-way, real-time video communication, as that’s the area I wanted him to cover on the panel App-Rising.com is co-hosting and moderating next week.

He went through the entire range of possibilities being explored, from pretty basic videoconferencing to HD one-on-one conversations at 30Mbps to an experience where 30+ live video feeds combine simultaneously for group discussions to uncompressed live HD streaming at 1.5Gbps.

I won’t get into any more detail than that for now as I want everyone to come to our event next week to hear the rest, but needless to say my eyes have been officially opened as to the vitally important role that Internet2 has and will continue to play in proving the concept of what this thing we call the Internet could one day be, given the influx of a heckuva lot more bandwidth.

In the end, I found myself getting more and more excited about what’s being done and what’s possible on Internet2. But as I did so, I couldn’t escape the nagging feeling of wondering when, if ever, the public Internet was going to be able to support anything near what’s possible on Internet2.

The hope is that Internet2 could be a proving grounds, a place to vet new technologies, and a shining example of what’s possible, but my fear is that it will continue to outpace the public Internet to such a severe degree that it begins to feel more like a futuristic pipe dream than an inspiration and road map for what’s possible.

I guess when we still live in a country where a sizable segment of people don’t see a pressing need for broadband of any sort, where another major contingent believes that what we have today is sufficient, and yet another group that admits the need for more capacity but only in small, incremental steps, it can be hard to stay optimistic about the public Internet ever reaching the level that Internet2 is at today, let alone where they’ll be ten years from now.

But luckily staying positive and hopeful is one of the things I do best. And that faith only grows stronger when given the opportunity to commune with people like Gary who are equally passionate about the importance of these issues.

We’ve all got a lot of work to do to reach that vision for a future of ultra high bandwidth, but at the very least through acknowledging the accomplishments of Internet2 we can talk about the future through real-world examples of what’s happening and not merely grandiose rhetoric over what’s possible.


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Comments (1)

A few years back, I was as impressed as you were. I looked at what our tax dollars were building, and jumped up and down with excitement.

What I envisioned, was the perfect bridge to our Digital Divide. The day was close, when the universities would bridge to the community, and everyone would be linked to such a marvelous new world.

Imagine, the university collaborates with communities to establish a "last mile solution". Every home would be hooked up, and the community would be able to offer the university a population for outcomes research in health and the social sciences. Telemedicine programs would be as ubiquitous as email is, today. Healthcare costs would shift, some paying lower fees for access to high quality healthcare not bounded by physical limitations, others gaining access to healthcare they never had, and overall healthcare costs reigned in and affordable.

But, it wasn't to be. Big Pharma says all is well as is. Insurance companies say all is well. Profits would suffer, were that to happen. Content providers say all is well. We don't need "last mile solutions" that will inevitably lead to decentralized broadband infrastructure in our country.

Internet2 is possibly one of the truly tragic comedies of the 21st century. In Iowa, the state got a very nice fiber optic network, and the politicians are determined not to bridge to the community, for, as they put it, they don't want to upset the incumbent telco/cableco monopolies. Better the kids not get a 21st century education, and the citizens of Iowa not get affordable healthcare.

Posted by Tom Poe on January 30, 2008 3:41 PM

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