Once Again, It's Internet II

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University Internet connections are about to get speedier. Today three high-tech firms said they were donating networking hardware and use of a zippy fiber-optic network linking 122 research universities through the Clinton administration's Next Generation Internet project. Together Qwest Communications International, Cisco Systems, and Northern Telecom will provide services and products worth an estimated $500 million over three years. Separately, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will hand $50 million to 27 Internet-related research projects.

Vice President Al Gore announced the donation and funding at a White House event this morning. "The Internet is revolutionizing our lives," Gore said, scaling a peak -- or at least a large hill -- of rhetorical obviousness. "It really is amazing how quickly this has happened." What's just as amazing is the idea that the Feds think $50 million will help, as Gore put it, make the Internet faster and more dependable. High tech firms have already been spending much more to figure out just that: Microsoft's R&D budget last year, for example, was a hefty $2.6 billion.