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Internet concerns -- an answer

In response to concerns that our Internet plugs might be pulled, or at least
inhibited, I give a copy of a posting which has been on the net since 1993.
This article gives the prognosis for Internet functionality at the University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but it is probably also reasonably accurate
for other major research institutions. I believe the author can be reached at

|Date: Sat, 17 Jul 1993 17:32:14 GMT
|Subject: [uiuc.pubs.in-illinois]  Changes in the Internet won't much affect UI
 computer users
|Message-ID: <CA9v8x.4v5@cs.uiuc.edu>
|Changes in the Internet won't much affect UI computer users
|By Melissa Mitchell
|Most likely, UI users of the Internet - a major international computer
|network - won't be affected by some monumental changes about to take place
|in the networking world.
|The biggest of those changes promises to take place as the federal
|government slowly begins to get out of the business of providing network
|access, and the enterprise shifts to the private sector. Currently, the UI
|is one of a small number of institutions that has a direct connection to
|the Internet throught the National Science Foundation's backbone network,
|NSFNet. Most institutions, however, gain access to the Internet via one of
|about 30 regional networks, or service providers. The service provider for
|much of the Midwest is CICNet, operated by the Committee on Institutional
|Cooperation, a consortium that includes the Big Ten universities plus the
|University of Chicago.
|"Service providers, most of whom serve a limited geographical area, attain
|national and international coverage via the NSFNet Backbone Service, which
|has hitherto been centrally funded by an award to Merit Inc. and provided
|to the regional service providers at no charge," said Stephen Wolff,
|director of the National Science Foundation's Division of Networking and
|Communications Research and Infrastructure.
|"Since the beginning of the current NSFNet Backbone Service in 1987, a
|lively and competitive commercial market in Internet carriage has emerged,
|with multiple vendors offering robust, nationwide, commodity-level
|services. Continued centralized funding of a backbone service by the
|foundation [NSF] is no longer justified, as it would place the federal
|government in direct competition with the private sector," Wolff said.
|NSF doesn't actually intend to pull its support of educational and
|research use of the networks so much as it plans to redirect it, he said.
|"Awards made under the currently active solicitation will include awards
|to regional networks to purchase backbone service on the open market. That
|is, the NSF will switch from supplier funding to user funding," Wolff
|The bottom line, he added, is that "the NSF is committed to continuity of
|network service to the research and education community. We will take
|whatever steps are necessary to assure it."
|Last month, eight of the nation's regional networks - including CICNet
|-announced that they were joining to form a for-profit company, the
|Corporation for Regional and Enterprise Networking. COREN, whose interim
|president, Michael E. Staman, also is president of CICNet, has signed a
|five-year, $200 million agreement with MCI Communications Corp. to provide
|a private backbone network that would link the eight regionals and allow
|them to sell backbone services to other regional networks throughout the
|country. The new company may ultimately compete with telephone and cable
|companies and others seeking to cash in on the development of the nation's
|much-touted, still-under-construction "information superhighway."
|Working with MCI, COREN eventually is expected to offer high-speed network
|services that will allow users to transmit large amounts of data,
|including high-resolution still images and video over the network.
|Meanwhile, some Internet users have become alarmed by rumors that, under
|proposed changes, NSFNet would be reserved for use by the national
|laboratories and supercomputer users. "An earlier solicitation was less
|inclusive," and did propose limiting access to the nation's supercomputing
|centers, said George Badger, the UI's associate vice chancellor for
|computing and communications. That plan has been scrapped, however, in
|favor of maintaining widespread access, he said.
|Users also have expressed concerns that pending changes would limit the
|"free" use of the Internet. Wolff said such concerns are based on a
|misunderstanding of the current operating structure.
|"In the first place," Wolff said, "there is no such thing as 'free use of
|the Internet.' Each and every institution with Internet access pays a
|service provider real money every year for the institution's connection.
|Most institutions do not, however, trickle those charges down to users,
|but pay for them out of general operating funds."
|At the UI, costs include an annual $50,000 CICNet membership fee, which is
|funded by the campus, Badger said. He added that regardless of how the
|networking cards ultimately fall, "We have no intention to pass [costs] on
|to users; such a move would be impractical given today's technology."
|Overall, UI users should be unaffected by the shift to increased
|commercialization of the national networks, Badger said. "We won't notice
|very much change in access to this campus, but one of the concerns is that
|we will notice some people dropping off the network at less financially
|well-off schools."
|Another issue to consider, Badger said, is whether commercialization could
|ultimately make it necessary to control how faculty, staff and students
|use the networks.
|For now, there are no plans to restrict use in any way. "The thing that is
|relatively easy to control is who has network access; but how it is used
|is more difficult," Badger said.
|However, "If we have to pay for traffic explicitly, this campus may be in
|a position to look at what kinds of traffic will appear to be legitimate,"
|he noted. "Anything that can be defined as research or education would be
|Should costs become exorbitant, such things as national news groups -
|bulletin boards that are used primarily for entertainment, rather than
|educational, purposes - could be eliminated. Still, Badger doubts that
|will be necessary.
|"A campus like this one can't afford not to have network access of good
|quality," he said. "The costs may change, but we'll find a way to do it
|without getting into the issue of how it will be used."
|======== End of "Changes in the Internet won't much affect UI computer users"
|For reference, the "bookmark" for this gopher item is:
|     Name=Changes in the Internet won't much affect UI computer users
|     Type=0
|     Port=70
|     Path=0/UI/II/July15/changes_in_the_inter
|     Host=ux3.cso.uiuc.edu