Building the Next Internet

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Two days ago there was one Internet. Now there are two. Yesterday morning a consortium of more than a hundred corporations and research universities threw the switch on the Abilene Project, a network of 10,000 miles of fiber optic cable that will serve as the prototype for the high-performance, no-waiting Internet of the future.

The Abilene Project -- which is part of the bigger, better-known Internet2 initiative -- is named after a major railhead built in Abilene, Kansas, in the 1860s. You can see the point of the analogy: The same way railroads opened up the western United States, superseding those low-tech cattle trails, this new high-tech network will supersede the laggy and unstable Internet that exists today. The present Internet was built on a network of wires that were designed only to carry voice communications -- telephones. Full-motion video takes a lot more bandwidth. The Abilene Project runs at 2.4 gigabits per second -- about 90,000 times faster than your humble 28.8 kbps modem).