image-  Illustration of Chicago, home of STAR TAP, credit: Forrest Dunnavantcredit: Forrest Dunnavant

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Where do many international Internet service providers share traffic routes?

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Do networks have to share a common pathway to use STAR TAP?

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Does foreign Internet traffic need permission to network with each other through STAR TAP?

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In a nutshell, Science, Technology and Research Transit Access Point (STAR TAP) has become the global crossroads for advanced networks and networking test beds.

The project is nearing the end of the initial operational funding, and NSF has renewed the project for three more years.

NSF believes STAR TAP has achieved a critical mass of connected networks and networking specialists, and that STAR TAP's added value services will continue to attract the contributions of many members of the networking community.

An Internet hub
spaceLocated in Chicago and operated by Ameritech Advanced Data Systems, STAR TAP is the central location where many of the international Internet service providers exchange traffic with each other.spacespace

Ameritech's record in keeping the switch operational without failure and without congestion is considered superb. Because the Chicago location employs an ATM switching "fabric,"
the result is thatnetworks can choose to exchange traffic directly with each other via the switch without having to use common pathways of other

In short, other networks' traffic will not congest the exchange medium and burden traffic.

International traffic
spaceBut, for international matters, there is an even greater benefit: national networks' choices to peer with each other are strictly bilateral decisions, free from policy constraints that could otherwise be imposed by the hosting

For example, if France's Reanter 2 chooses to exchange traffic directly with Taiwan's Tanet 2, neither NSF, Ameritech nor anybody else other than France and Taiwan is involved in that decision or in deciding just what kinds of traffic France and Taiwan will exchange. STAR TAP was purposely set up that way.

Over the past two years, more than 100 universities and national laboratories have been linked to many international premier networks through STAR TAP through the University of Illinois-Chicago's Electronic Visualization Lab.

In summer 1998, NSF announced that it will extend STAR TAP's original three-year grant with another $5 million award through 2003.

A proving ground
STAR TAP is a proving ground for long-term interconnection and interoperability of advanced international networking.

Launched in 1997, it provides a universal peering point in the U.S.A., where international networks have formal agreements to exchange data traffic with the NSF's very high speed Backbone Network System (VBNS) and other advanced networks, such as Internet2's Abilene, and those of the Department of Energy (DOE), the DOD and NASA.

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