US Report: Gore takes the wraps off 'Internet2' initiative

"Internet2," the private network that holds the promise of vast improvements to the existing Internet, was officially unveiled by Vice President Al Gore in a ceremony at the White House Tuesday.

The network links 100 universities and a handful of other schools, and was created with $500M (£297.2M) in funding from universities and high-tech giants including Cisco, 3Com and MCI

Internet 2 can transmit all 30 volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in a single second, working from 100 to 1,000 times faster than the existing Web, and is expected to be fully operational by year's end.

It's not accessible to the general public, and it won't mean big changes in consumers' Internet experience for now, but the hardware and software technology behind Internet2 will eventually help the original network run faster and more efficiently, according to the researchers behind the project.

The first order of business for Internet2 will be to provide a platform for academics to collaborate on research. The network should prove vital to media research, allowing virtual consults on diagnoses and even surgery, the researchers said. Real-time weather forecasting using sophisticated software tools will also be possible.

Internet2 will run on fiber-optic lines provided by Qwest Communications and it will use networking tools provided by Cisco and Northern Telecom.

"We think this is the cutting edge that's going to define how our products shape next-generation networks," 3Com's director of global education markets, David Katz, said in a statement. "What happens here will be happening in other industries in a very short period of time."

The 1 1/2-year-old project is tied to the Clinton administration's Next Generation Internet initiative, which is earmarked for $110M (£65.5M) in funding in the fiscal 1999 budget.

Gore also announced $50 (£29.8M) in new funding for Internet projects by the Department of Defence's Advanced Research Projects Agency.