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News Release 97-039

NSF Approves New Connections to High-Speed Computer Network

Lays the groundwork for the Internet of the future

May 20, 1997

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made grants to 35 research institutions across the United States that will allow them to connect to NSF's very high speed Backbone Network Service (vBNS), an extremely sophisticated telecommunications system that enables scientists across the continent to share powerful computing resources.

The new grants move the nation one step closer to a newer, high-speed version of the Internet, the global network of computer networks. The 21 two-year grants, made both to individual institutions and to consortiums of research universities, range from approximately $350,000 to $3.8 million, depending on the number of institutions involved. The total for all 21 grants is $12.3 million.

MCI Communications Corp., with headquarters in Washington, D.C., provides the vBNS under the terms of a cooperative agreement with NSF.

The new connections will allow researchers to make use of powerful supercomputers at remote locations to perform complex calculations or to conduct simulations that would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to carry out over conventional telecommunications networks.

The vBNS is capable of transmitting vastly larger amounts of data much more quickly than existing networks. It can transmit as many as 622 million bits per second. A bit is the smallest unit of information in a computer. The vBNS eventually will be capable of transmitting 2.4 billion bits per second. By comparison, the average modem in a home personal computer transmits 28,800 bits per second.

This large capacity allows scientists to run more accurate and comprehensive simulations of natural phenomena interactively or to collect and analyze elaborate sets of data from geographically dispersed remote sensors. Researchers at widely separated institutions also will be able to use the vBNS connections to simultaneously collaborate on studies of very complex phenomena, both real and simulated, including rapidly changing weather patterns and collisions of galaxies.

The new round of grants brings to 64 the number of institutions linked to the vBNS. "We are now more than half of the way to our goal of connecting the top 100 research institutions," said Mark Luker, who directs the NSFNET program. NSFNET was the test-bed and the original backbone of the existing Internet, until it was decommissioned in 1995.

NSF's high-performance connections to the vBNS will play a central role in achieving a major goal of the Clinton Administration's "Next Generation Internet" initiative by linking roughly 100 leading universities and their research partners. The network will facilitate the joint development of software applications and communications technologies for the Internet of the future.

In a closely related development, "Internet 2," a consortium of universities committed to the development of advanced networking to support future educational applications of telecommunications and technology, has designated the vBNS its initial telecommunications network.

As more and increasingly sophisticated software tools are developed for the Internet, the demand for high performance connections grows, especially among scientific researchers and educators. "With vBNS, NSF is continuing the tradition we began with the NSFNET backbone of pushing networking to the limits in support of the academic research community, while enabling the transfer of cutting-edge technology to the commercial realm," Luker said.


Institutions Receiving vBNS Grants

The following list of institutions received the latest round of high-performance connection grants. For more information about specific grants, please contact the public affairs office at the individual institutions.

  • Dartmouth College
  • Georgia State University
  • Harvard University
  • Indiana University at Bloomington
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • MCNC ( includes Duke University; North Carolina State University; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and the North Carolina Supercomputing Center)
  • Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
  • Texas A&M University (also includes the Institute for Biosciences and Technology at Houston)
  • The Regents of the University of California, for the Consortium for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC). Includes University of California campuses at Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Riverside, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz; and the following private institutions: Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, the University of Southern California (USC) and USC's Information Sciences Institute.
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • University of New Mexico
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • University of Utah
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Yale University

Media Contacts
Peter West, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email:

Program Contacts
Mark Luker, NSF, (703) 292-8950, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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