A faster, more reliable Internet, coming to a school or library near you

Once limited to select institutions, Internet2 and its massive bandwidth are about to hit community sites across the country

In the next two or three years, you may get to experience the awesome power of Internet2 (I2) on a fairly regular basis. The network originally developed for research and government institutions is about to make huge leaps in footprint and bandwidth.

Backbone bandwidth will jump from the current total of approximately 100Gbps to a whopping 8.8Tbps. At the same time, I2's footprint will jump from approximately 65,000 research institutions, universities, hospitals, and government agencies to up to 200,000 community "anchor" sites across the United States, including local public libraries, schools, community colleges, research parks, and public safety and health care institutions. The bandwidth upgrade is the result of a partnership between Internet2 and Ciena Corporation, whose ActivFlex 6500 Packet Optical Platform will provide the muscle for 88 100Gbps ITU Grid DWDM wavelengths streaming across the entire national I2 backbone, up from approximately 10 10Gbps waves.

The larger footprint comes thanks to a federal initiative called the United States Unified Community Anchor Network, which is expanding I2 to the designated community anchors. Both are financed by $62 million in federal stimulus funds from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.

For universities, government agencies, and other research institutions, the larger 100Gbps pipes will mean much more single-pipe capacity for telemedicine, remote sensor applications, and multiterabyte data sets typically used in scientific inquiries.

"I2 users are used to much better reliability than typical Internet users," says Rob Vietzke, Interent2 executive director of network services, "with much better latency, much less jitter, and no packet loss. You can have absolute confidence that your high-definition videoconference will actually work. A community doctor who needs a digital X-ray can be confident he will get it during his appointment."

For other users, it will mean access to applications like telepresence that were not feasible or notoriously unreliable over a typical consumer-grade Internet connection. Projects are on the way for earthquake and tsunami sensor networks, as well as emergency management coordination that connects local 911 operations.

And as a proving ground for applications and technologies that often appear on the consumer Internet just a few years later, the I2 upgrade means a look forward to improved reliability and bandwidth for cloud computing, Internet TV, telepresence, and other bandwidth-hungry applications likely to take off, as well as those that you don't know about yet. "Today enterprises won't run their core operations in the cloud because the network reliability and performance just isn't there for them," says Vietzke.

The time lag between the consumer-grade Internet and I2 has been compressing so that the bandwidth available to Internet2 members is often offered to the consumer just a few years on. Once users experience I2's power and stability at their local library or high school, they're more than likely to demand it elsewhere.

This article, "A faster, more reliable Internet, coming to a school or library near you," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.