The University Record, July 30, 1997

More than 100 come to U to brainstorm about Internet2

Laptops and cell phones were the order of the day last week when more than 100 individuals gathered at the U-M to discuss Internet2. Photo by Bob Kalmbach


By Rebecca A. Doyle

More than 100 representatives from universities around the nation gathered at the U-M last week to discuss the potential and properties of Internet2, the proposed super-network that would increase reliability and could transfer information at speeds from 100 to 1,000 times faster than the present Internet.

Approximately 80 percent of the Internet2 consortium--100 universities with ties to the present Internet--were able to send one or more of their technical staff to Ann Arbor to participate in brainstorming sessions to determine how to build Internet2 to accommodate applications vital to the research and teaching community. Those applications are expected to be used as demonstrations when the group makes recommendations in Washington, D.C., in October.

Laptop computers sprouted like June ragweed and cellular phones were as abundant as dandelions on the second floor of the Michigan League as ideas flew back and forth at lightning speed.

"There is a great deal of excitement here," noted Douglas E. Van Houweling, vice provost for information technology. Most members of the consortium expect the super-network and their connection to it will be a reality by the end of 1998.

Experts from the member universities, comfortable with words like tele-immersion, IP telephony, meta-computing and multicast application, also explained that Internet2 has the potential to provide an environment for on-line research collaborations, distance teaching and 3-dimensional worldwide video conferencing. The increased capacity, according to Ted Hanss, director of applications development for Internet2, could make available such information as direct access to photographs taken of Mars by the Sojourner probe, front seat viewing for medical students during operating room procedures and the potential for developing video signals at a much higher definition than are currently available on television.

Hanss is on leave from his administrative post in the Information Technology Division to help develop applications for the project.

"The potential for academic applications is vast," notes Van Houweling. "The ways Internet2 can enhance collaborations within the academic research community is extremely exciting. Then, knowledge gained from those collaborations can be applied to both distance learning and learning within the individual academic community and has future implications as to how we reach students and how we teach students."

Although Internet2 is not expected to be available publicly until after the year 2000, a full two years after the academic community, corporations are already lining up to be first to plug in to the vast potential market.