NEWS: Second Network for Speed Demons

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Science  24 Apr 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5363, pp. 491
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5363.491b

Scientists who need superfast computing networks now have a new way to get their fix. Vice President Al Gore, along with a university consortium and three companies, last week announced the creation of an academic network with the speediest data lines yet. It should make it easier for scientists to do everything from operating a telescope remotely to hitching together far-flung computers.

Right now, most scientists who need fast data transmission turn to the National Science Foundation's very high performance Backbone Network Service run by MCI, which moves data at up to 622 megabits per second (Mbps) (Science, 7 March 1997, p. 1412). The new network, called Abilene, will be four times faster—2.4 giga-bps, which can transmit the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1 second. Universities will decide whether to link to an Abilene node.

Developing the network is the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development, a group of over 120 research universities which runs Internet2, a project helping to create the federal Next Generation Internet. Abilene's infrastructure, however, is a gift: It will start operating this year on 26,000 kilometers of fiber-optic lines, a service worth an estimated $500 million donated by Qwest, a Denver company that wants to show off its network to potential business customers. Cisco Systems and Nortel are chipping in other equipment.

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