College decides against upgrading to Internet 2 protocol

Despite a number of colleges and universities’ move to introduce Internet 2, a non-commercial faster mode of data transfer, to their campuses, the College has determined that the cost of the project currently makes it unfeasible.

Internet 2 is the next step in the evolution of information sharing.The internet connection that most people use now began with the purpose of sharing data within in the military’s various defense research networks. Soon the military offered this connection to research universities so that they could use it to share scientific information. Although the connection was meant for data sharing, the most popular application became e-mail. When people realized the business potential for a network that connected individuals around the world, the commercial Internet as is known today gradually evolved.

In this same manner, Internet 2 is now changing the way people communicate. One of the main goals listed on the Internet 2 website (www.internet2.edu) is to “ensure the rapid transfer of new network services and applications to the broader internet community.”

Even though Internet 2 currently is used only to experiment and share data among science researchers, the applications that are being discovered will one day be used by everyone. Mark Berman, director of networks and systems, said that the purpose of Internet 2 is “to do things that will be absorbed into public internet.” The internet that exists right now was not created at once, but grew as more uses were discovered. Internet 2 will experience this same growth.

The current commercial internet is a great source of entertainment, information and anything the average person might need, but for research institutions it leaves very little room to experiment. Since the commercial internet relies on many users, commercial entities cannot afford to test any new applications of the internet. Internet 2 provides an improved connection where scientists from around the world may try out new ways to utilize the Internet.

One example of the new applications of Internet 2 is telemetry, which allows doctors to treat patients who are thousands of miles away. The advantage of this is that a patient in a remote part of the world in dire need of an operation would not have to travel far to be treated by the best surgeon in the field. Instead the surgeon would operate by controlling the proper machinery over an accurate and fast connection such as Internet 2. This application of course will take a long time before it becomes part of everyday life. There are, however other applications of Internet 2, which may enrich the learning experience for students and faculty in the present.

One application from which the College could benefit is teleconferencing, Berman said. This would allow people on campus to communicate with people form around the globe. The benefits of such clear communication with the world are countless. In order to receive a lecture, the College would no longer have to pay for a plane ticket for the guest lecturer; instead the lecture would be given as a conference via Internet 2.

It will be a long time, though, before the College becomes a part of the Internet 2 network. Berman points out that “the cost is too high and the reward too low” for Internet 2, as the price for holding a connection is about $150,000 a year. A few years ago there was an opportunity to receive a grant from the National Science Foundation to connect to Internet 2, but since the grant only covered the cost of the first few years the College decided not to apply.

Berman also pointed out that there is no real need for Internet 2 at the College at this point and that faculty members have not expressed interest in conducting research through this connection. If the College wanted to become part of the new research-oriented connection there are other obstacles, location being the primary one.

Location was not a problem for Amherst College, who has been able to be part of the network by sharing the connection and costs with four other institutions: UMass. Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith College. Amherst College was lucky in its location near Springfield, one of the centers of the Internet 2 connection.

The sharing of the Internet 2 connection allows the small schools to take part of the benefits – which they would do anyway since a lot of research is not completed in small institutions – and only part of the costs.

A lack of an Internet 2 connection, however, is nothing to worry about, Berman said. He asserts that compared to Amherst, the College students still have better internet network services.