California Colleges Building Own Net
Calif. colleges building own Net - May 24, 1997
A group of universities in California are building their own information highway to exchange data from libraries and laboratories at least 100 times faster than the Internet.
The project, announced yesterday, will form a sort of virtual university in which students can read books from distant libraries and take classes at other campuses. Along with expanding such resources, the new network could help schools save money by avoiding the duplication of resources.
They said the network, which will be up and running next year, will also be more reliable than today's Internet.
"The electronic highway is faced with rush-hour traffic most of the day. We need reliable service delivery," said M. Stuart Lynn, University of California associate vice president and the principal investigator for the project.
The network will be designed to connect campuses at speeds of over 600 million bits per second. At that rate, a 30-volume encyclopedia could be transmitted in less than one second.
Participating schools include seven campuses of the University of California, along with the California Institute of Technology, the California State University, Stanford University, and the University of Southern California.
The schools are members of the Consortium for Education Network Initiatives in California, which earlier this week won a $3.8 million grant for the project from the National Science Foundation.
In addition to the statewide effort, major universities in California are also participating in a similar project to link more than 100 research universities across the country, an initiative known as Internet 2. They said they decided to separately link schools within California to ensure the state has the best technology to support its research and educational needs.
The network will also give more students virtual access to state-of-the art research tools, such as a sophisticated electron microscope at the UC's Riverside campus or an advanced telescope in Hawaii that some California schools help manage. Medical researchers will be able to transmit images over the network for diagnosis and teaching purposes.
"Some of these schools are already sharing research journals, and we expect to do more of that in the future," Lynn said. "The cost of many of these journals is rising exponentially, and there is a strong incentive to make sure we are not duplicating our resources unnecessarily."
Asked whether this digital information-sharing would do away with the schools' need to maintain their own resources, Lynn replied: "When's the future? Is it 100 years from now, 1,000, or two years?" "I think there will be a lot of water under the bridge before schools do away with their print libraries."
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