Summary and Recommendations

The potential for realizing a national information networking marketplace that can enrich people's economic, social, and political lives has recently been unlocked through the convergence of three developments:

  • The federal government's promotion of the National Information Infrastructure through an administration initiative and supporting congressional actions;

  • The runaway growth of the Internet, an electronic network complex developed initially for and by the research community; and

  • The recognition by entertainment, telephone, and cable TV companies of the vast commercial potential in a national information infrastructure.

A national information infrastructure (NII) can provide a seamless web of interconnected, interoperable information networks, computers, databases, and consumer electronics that will eventually link homes, workplaces, and public institutions together. It can embrace virtually all modes of information generation, transport, and use. The potential benefits can be glimpsed in the experiences to date of the research and education communities, where access through the Internet to high-speed networks has begun to radically change the way researchers work, educators teach, and students learn.

To a large extent, the NII will be a transformation and extension of today's computing and communications infrastructure (including, for example, the Internet, telephone, cable, cellular, data, and broadcast networks). Trends in each of these component areas are already bringing about a next-generation information infrastructure. Yet the outcome of



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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond Summary and Recommendations The potential for realizing a national information networking marketplace that can enrich people's economic, social, and political lives has recently been unlocked through the convergence of three developments: The federal government's promotion of the National Information Infrastructure through an administration initiative and supporting congressional actions; The runaway growth of the Internet, an electronic network complex developed initially for and by the research community; and The recognition by entertainment, telephone, and cable TV companies of the vast commercial potential in a national information infrastructure. A national information infrastructure (NII) can provide a seamless web of interconnected, interoperable information networks, computers, databases, and consumer electronics that will eventually link homes, workplaces, and public institutions together. It can embrace virtually all modes of information generation, transport, and use. The potential benefits can be glimpsed in the experiences to date of the research and education communities, where access through the Internet to high-speed networks has begun to radically change the way researchers work, educators teach, and students learn. To a large extent, the NII will be a transformation and extension of today's computing and communications infrastructure (including, for example, the Internet, telephone, cable, cellular, data, and broadcast networks). Trends in each of these component areas are already bringing about a next-generation information infrastructure. Yet the outcome of

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond these trends is far from certain; the nature of the NII that will develop is malleable. Choices will be made in industry and government, beginning with investments in the underlying physical infrastructure. Those choices will affect and be affected by many institutions and segments of society. They will determine the extent and distribution of the commercial and societal rewards to this country for investments in infrastructure-related technology, in which the United States is still currently the world leader. 1994 is a critical juncture in our evolution to a national information infrastructure. Funding arrangements and management responsibilities are being defined (beginning with shifts in NSF funding for the Internet), commercial service providers are playing an increasingly significant role, and nonacademic use of the Internet is growing rapidly. Meeting the challenge of ''wiring up" the nation will depend on our ability not only to define the purposes that the NII is intended to serve, but also to ensure that the critical technical issues are considered and that the appropriate enabling physical infrastructure is put in place. COMMITTEE AND IT'S TASKS To help meet the challenge of building an NII with lasting value and utility, the National Research Council's Computer Science and Telecommunications Board assembled a committee to study issues raised by the shift to a larger, more truly national networking capability. The committee that authored the report brings unique competence derived from members who developed and pioneered the use of the Internet from within the research and education communities and who have researched, built, financed, and operated networks generally. At the request of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the committee focused on how best to continue to meet the needs of the research and education communities in the midst of the policy and program transition from a National Research and Education Network (NREN) to an NII focus. Drawing on the lessons of the Internet experience, the committee addressed the structural questions of how to build a working NII and considered also the key enabling actions that must be taken by the federal government to achieve an integrated infrastructure that will benefit U.S. society as a whole. The report that resulted presents a vision of the NII based on an Open Data Network (ODN), whose essential technical components it outlines; points out the potential of the ODN for meeting current and future U.S. networking needs; characterizes the nature of the transition to such an infrastructure; examines how the transition to a larger information infrastructure will affect those communities that have come or will come

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond to depend on the Internet; identifies barriers to and trade-offs in achieving an ODN; and suggests approaches and actions the federal government can take to catalyze and guide the realization of this vision. A main purpose of this report is to express the perspectives of the research and education communities and the vision they generate for an integrated NII. THE VISION OF AN OPEN DATA NETWORK There are many possible visions for an NII. Members of the Internet networking communities, for example, look forward to an NII that will continue to provide a laboratory for discovering innovative applications for information technology in research, education, and commerce. Major players in the entertainment, telephone, and cable TV (ETC) sector see movies, games, and home shopping offered over the NII as promising commercial ventures. Motivating the administration's support of the NII are broad social and economic policy considerations basic to improving the quality of life in the United States. Included in the mix of expectations and approaches are the views of various trade, public interest, and professional organizations about the NII's potential for meeting their diverse needs. The committee's vision of the NII gives form to these diverse expectations as a data network with open and evolvable interfaces. Such a network should be capable of carrying information services of all kinds, from suppliers of all kinds, to customers of all kinds, across network service providers of all kinds, in a seamless accessible fashion. Moreover, the user of an Open Data Network should be able to access this capability as he or she moves from place to place. The network should be scalable in the many dimensions of size, load, services, reach, and utility; should integrate a range of network technology and end-node devices; and should provide a framework for security. The committee's vision of the NII is based on a 25-year legacy of computer networking in the United States. The current manifestation of that legacy is the worldwide Internet that serves more than 15 million people. Its success is based largely on the Internet's openness, which allows interoperability of all of its attached networks. Indeed, an Open Data Network includes the following characteristics: Open to users: It does not force users into closed groups or deny access to any sectors of society, but permits universal connectivity, as does the telephone system. Open to service providers: It provides an open and accessible envi-

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond ronment for competing commercial or intellectual interests. For example, it does not preclude competitive access for information providers. Open to network providers: It makes it possible for any network provider to meet the necessary requirements to attach and become a part of the aggregate of interconnected networks. Open to change: It permits the introduction of new applications and services over time. It is not limited to only one application, such as TV distribution. It also permits the introduction of new transmission, switching, and control technologies as these become available in the future. The ability to evolve is a key property of the NII envisioned by the committee. Currently, both the Internet and the telephone network are running out of addresses for their subscribers. In the case of the Internet, a likely outcome is a major change in the protocol suite that will affect millions of computers. Providing the ability to evolve gracefully in any of a number of dimensions is essential to the successful commercialization of the Internet and its integration into a larger NII. Although the Internet is a clear example of a network with an open architecture, the concept of openness is not universally accepted at present. Witness, for example, the numerous communications networks that deal with closed services (e.g., the cable TV industry, the radio pager industry) or those that have attempted to maintain captive user communities via a proprietary network architecture (usually, users of such networks eventually demand interoperability of heterogeneous equipment). In any case, an open network should certainly allow closed user groups to offer their services on the open network if they so choose. DEVELOPING AN OPEN DATA NETWORK ARCHITECTURE Constructing an Open Data Network translates into a number of technical goals and considerations for planning the NII: there is a need for a certain minimum level of physical infrastructure to be provided; for a minimum set of services to be made available; for NII compliance to be defined, to ensure provision of the basic services and to illuminate what is and is not compatible with the open architecture; for supporting standards to be set; for security provisions to be developed; and for oversight and management. Configuring the Components Achieving an open network hinges on articulating and maintaining an appropriate architecture. Without a unifying architecture, multiple

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond disparate networks will not only have to replicate common services, but may also implement them in incompatible ways. The Open Data Network proposed in this report involves a four-level layered architecture configured as follows: (1) at the lowest level is an abstract bit-level service, the bearer service, which is realized out of the lines, switches, and other elements of networking technology; (2) above this level is the transport level, with functionality that transforms the basic bearer service into the proper infrastructure for higher-level applications (as is done in today's Internet by the TCP protocol) and with coding formats to support various kinds of traffic (e.g., voice, video, fax); (3) above the transport level is the middleware , with commonly used functions (e.g., file system support, privacy assurance, billing and collection, and network directory services); and (4) at the upper level are the applications with which users interact directly. This layered approach with well-defined boundaries permits fair and open competition among providers of all sorts at each of the layers. In particular, the concept of a distinct bearer service contributes to meeting the key objective of separating the information service provider from the network service provider in order to allow all potential service providers the opportunity to flourish in an ODN environment. To provide for this separation, the committee has structured the protocol stack of its architecture such that it narrows down considerably at the interface to the (open) bearer service layer. Above this narrow "waist" the stack broadens out to include the broad range of options for the transport, middleware, and applications layers. Below this narrow waist, the stack again broadens out to include the many possible technologies for implementing network access, local area networks, metropolitan area networks, and wide area networks. Such an arrangement reinforces the principle of separation and is intended not to prevent the same supplier from acting in two roles, but rather to ensure that individual competitors can enter into the marketplace at either level. The minimum set of higher-level application services, which builds on the bearer, transport, and middleware services, includes electronic mail, fax, remote login, database browsing, digital object storage, and financial transaction services. As the NII matures, this minimum set should evolve to become more comprehensive. Beyond this minimum set are more demanding services, which include audio and video servers, both broadcast and interactive. The committee believes it is imperative to develop at the outset a security architecture that will lay the foundation for protections of privacy, security, and intellectual property rights—safeguards that cannot be supplied as effectively on an add-on basis.

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond Defining NII Compliance and Setting Standards An NII-compliant network would provide a set of core services implemented in a standard fashion so as to provide for interoperability. For purposes of this report, the committee defines the concept as follows: An NII-compliant network must provide a technology-independent bearer service and the minimum set of application-level services listed above, that is, electronic mail, fax, remote login, database browsing, digital object storage, and financial transaction services. If an additional service, such as video, is provided that conforms to NII standards, then such a service will also be said to be, for example, NII video-compliant. As the concept of NII compliance makes clear, standards are critical to achieving an ODN composed of components and services supplied, owned, and used by a wide range of parties. Establishing standards for an ODN will be a challenge. The networks that will underlie the NII are extremely large, and neither a small group (like the one that shaped early Internet standards) nor the government has either a mandate or the control to set standards. The forces that bear on the standards-setting process are significant and multidimensional. Among them are competing approaches—the development of a unilateral standard by a dominant vendor versus development in an open, multiparty environment—and the tension between the simple, short-term solution and the longer-term, general and flexible solution. Although in the context of the computer industry standards have evolved through vendors implementing unilateral standards as well as marketplace adoption of ad hoc standards, neither approach necessarily supports development of the standards needed for a sufficiently general and flexible ODN architecture of the scope required for an NII. The short-term profit motive of a commercial provider confronting the uncertain prospects of new ETC service offerings, for example, may not encourage commercial applications that meet open standards. Open interfaces (which can involve some proprietary elements) may increase costs initially or be perceived as offering less competitive advantage than a more proprietary approach. Indeed, there will be considerable pressure to develop closed networks (closed in the sense that only a limited set of services can pass over the network, or only a limited class of users can access the network). An open architecture does not preclude groups that may choose to operate in a closed mode from doing so. At present, however, the private sector has few incentives to opt on its own for a very general and flexible architecture, and, absent government action, the possibly limited architecture that does emerge, from, say, the ETC community, may be the

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond default architecture for the other constituencies, not least because standards for consumer service interfaces tend to be relatively stable. Factoring in the International Aspect A final issue affecting development of an ODN is its international scope, a fact that the mere label "NII" can tend to obscure. Both the Internet and information infrastructure generally are fundamentally international. The international nature of infrastructure will have to be addressed in whatever technical, market, and legal measures are taken to assure smooth communication and interaction between most countries. International connectivity must be maintained and expanded as foreign networks develop and proliferate. Beyond physical access, one or more bodies may be needed to develop and monitor bilateral and multilateral agreements on standards, transborder data flow problems, and transborder legalities generally. In addition, both to assure the maximum usefulness of international connections and to support U.S. vendors, export control restrictions on the sale and deployment of U.S. infrastructure technology should continue to be reviewed and, as appropriate, revised. DEPLOYING THE OPEN DATA NETWORK The difficulties of developing an Open Data Network architecture extend to such aspects of deployment as financing the infrastructure, designing and deploying services, regulation, funding of specific uses, determining the breadth and nature of access, establishing features such as protection of privacy, and so on. The number, nature, complexity, and interrelatedness of these issues argue the need for oversight in the development of the NII and raise questions about the appropriate level of government involvement to direct and guide the achievement of a viable ODN. Research and Education Concerns Realizing an ODN that benefits the economy and society broadly presents many challenges, several of which are recognized by administration and congressional efforts under the NII aegis. While those efforts address meeting the broadest possible set of needs, the research and education communities present specific sets of needs that should also be recognized and addressed as part of NII planning and policymaking. Financial considerations dominate those concerns, since the research and education communities depend primarily on public funding and generally have very tight budgets.

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond How the needs of the research and education communities (which are treated here in the aggregate but differ among and within themselves) are addressed will bear on some of the more difficult issues relating to achieving a truly national scale within the NII, including the extent to which access to networks and services can be truly individualized. Choices will have to be made—and their consequences assessed—regarding dimensions that are commonly discussed as principles for infrastructure access and use (equitable access, protection of key rights, and responsibilities). Whereas a goal of the NII is ready access to the network by individuals wherever they may be, beginning with their homes and places of work, the goals of research and educational networking programs have centered on access by an institution (e.g., a school, a library, or a laboratory), which would in turn support access by individuals within the institution. Infrastructure Financing: Investments for Research and Education A major concern for the research and education communities is financing access to and use of the NII. To date, access to the Internet has been obtained largely through institutions (such as a university), and those institutions have benefited from federal funding of the NSFNET backbone. Although the imminent elimination of that funding will raise costs far more modestly than many fear (costs will be distributed across user institutions), the change in funding has prompted a more general concern about the possibility of direct charges to individual users. These concerns are magnified among those (notably in the K-12 and smaller higher-education institutions) who have not so far had easy access to the Internet. User charges are desirable when costs vary with use; in these environments, users are able to assess their investment with respect to competing alternatives. The seemingly "free" nature of Internet use has clearly fostered growth in that use; by the same token, the marginal costs of supplying such common applications as electronic mail have been very low, justifying a negligible price except when congestion is experienced. Financial burdens are not homogeneous across research and education users, although there has been little systematic analysis of the variation. Researchers with extraordinary demand for network bandwidth are among those who raise questions about the prospect of user charges, and the expected increase in video and audio applications suggests that pricing as a mechanism for rationing access to infrastructure will become more generally needed over time. The committee expects that a variety of pricing schemes will emerge with the broader commercialization of

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond the Internet and its integration with other networks. For purposes of fostering continued experimentation in the evolving infrastructure and to assist in fiscal management in the research and education communities, some flat-rate (subscription) charging alternatives are desirable. The work of research, education, and other social institutions must often be funded with public monies because it produces substantial spillover benefits for the rest of society that cannot be supported directly by the institutions themselves. Given the government's fundamental interest in the missions of the research, education, and associated library communities, support for information infrastructure access and use is consistent with the overall provision of funding for these communities. However, the allocation of support for information infrastructure calls for a weighing and balancing of competing investment alternatives relating to research and education (e.g., for different kinds of inputs to the processes of research and education). This committee endorses the singling out of information infrastructure in research and education for targeted support. The commercialization of the Internet and the integration of applications into research and education suggest that related spending will inevitably be integrated into general research and education budgets, as is the case for telephone and computing costs. In the short term, however, there are a number of transitional issues. Some researchers and educators who depend on the Internet—for example, individuals with large amounts of use related to their work and those with limited institutional support—may need some assistance in adjusting to increased infrastructure prices. Infrastructure support should be a function of the overall research funding process: agencies underwriting research that requires high bandwidth, for example, should either provide access to the necessary infrastructure (e.g., NSF's new very high speed backbone network service (vBNS) or DOE's ESnet) or expect to cover extraordinary costs—not on the basis of entitlement but as a function of the work being done and its requirements. The critical concerns are avoiding disruption from a sudden and sharp imposition of new user charges, minimizing administrative burdens, and assuring equitable access to public support. Over the long term, more generalized mechanisms may evolve, as discussed in the body of this report. The power of networking has totally changed the way much of science and technology development is conducted in this country, and a generation of scientists has now emerged who depend on that capability. Yet as regards the benefits of networking, the science research community and portions of the higher-education community have had almost a decade head start on the K-12 schools, smaller higher-education institutions, and public library institutions. It is time to allow these latter communities to conduct the experiment and reap the benefits that upper-tier

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond higher education and research have enjoyed. Movement toward broader deployment and some scheme for ensuring equitable access, with targeted mechanisms such as vouchers, may support that objective. THE GOVERNMENT ROLE The federal government has an opportunity to alter, enrich, and extend existing elements of the U.S. communications and information infrastructure and to guide their integration into a more powerful whole. The broadening of focus implicit in moving from a narrower NREN orientation to a broader NII orientation suggests that the federal government can play a variety of roles, each lending itself to expression through a variety of mechanisms. Key roles, which are not mutually exclusive, include: Providing leadership and vision, Balancing interests and airing competing perspectives, and Influencing the shape of the information infrastructure. Decisions made to meet U.S. needs will bear on international connectivity, which is essential for the NII to fulfill its potential. Long-term Strategy, Management, and Wise Investment In promoting the NII, the administration has taken a number of steps that demonstrate the impact that leadership and vision can have. At the same time, sustaining that leadership and establishing the mechanisms needed to implement the vision require additional actions aimed at ensuring both the development of an architecture for an Open Data Network and the deployment of an infrastructure built from that architecture. The federal government needs to establish and maintain a long-range strategy and program responsible for overseeing the evolution of the NII and its applications and for addressing funding needs over the long term. That strategy and program must incorporate the technical competence needed to develop and deploy the ODN architecture and should, in addition, involve a mechanism for addressing the needs, preferences, options, and constraints of all stakeholders, making sure, in particular, that the transitional and long-term needs of such public interest communities as research, education, and libraries are addressed. The need for a program drawing on multiple constituencies is shaped in part by a recognition that the federal role in information infrastructure is inherently limited—the federal government will never be able to invest in infrastructure facilities and services a meaningful fraction of the multi-

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond billion-dollar private-sector investment plus the growing investments by state governments in state-based information infrastructure and by all manner of individuals and organizations in local computing, communications, and information access infrastructure. What the federal government can do is focus its own investments and policymaking to gain the maximum leverage and assure the necessary balancing of interests to make sure that the public interest is met. As part of that balancing, it will be important that NSF and other agencies not back away from the research and education communities in terms of commitment to their needs for and contributions to information infrastructure. Despite limited resources for actually building information infrastructure, the federal government has several mechanisms for influencing its shape, in terms of both architecture and deployment. Notable among them are standards-and procurement-related activities, as well as research and development, activities on which this report focuses. Although the federal government cannot set all of the standards required for an ODN architecture, it can (through the National Institute of Standards and Technology and other agencies) participate more effectively in standards-setting processes; it can continue to drive Internet-related standards activities and help to stabilize those aspects of the Internet environment that permit the Internet to function; and it can use its own procurement and information-and service-delivery activities to implement and influence the market for key standards. Of course, it can complement such activities with changes in regulations and tax incentives, options for which are analyzed elsewhere. Although the NSFNET transition signals a pulling away from the use of procurement to explore infrastructure technologies, the committee notes that there remains value to government procurement of and support for truly experimental networks. Leadership in Education There is a wonderful opportunity to use the NII to extend what has been one of the more exciting developments in the Internet, namely, stimulation of curiosity and an increased interest in learning and support for teaching in K-12 education. In those few schools where access to the Internet has been made available, there has been a tremendous influence for the good. Unmotivated students are "turning on"; teachers are networking to share ideas and resources; collaboration among students across the world is taking place; and new modes of learning and of seeking information are developing. Indeed, the use of networking for K-12 education is perhaps one of the hopes we have in this country for repair-

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond ing what is now accepted as a ''broken" educational system. Large though it may be, the cost of providing our youth access to the NII's capabilities must be measured in terms of our increasing need for an educated, highly motivated U.S. work force. Limited use to date of the current network infrastructure by the K-12 and other education communities indicates a need for more effective governmental leadership. Needed is a specific locus of responsibility and accountability for infrastructure development and use, building on a stronger base of technological competence, within the Department of Education, and the setting of a national agenda for local, state, and federal efforts. Technology Research and Development The successes of the NREN program worldwide and the strengths exhibited by the U.S. network infrastructure demonstrate clearly this country's technological leadership in networking and information infrastructure. However, that lead is fast shrinking. It is therefore essential to expand the U.S. research effort into the information infrastructure domain itself, to address issues relating to the representation, transfer, and protection of information as well as to data communications per se. In addition, although network supply and operation will be increasingly commercial, the federal government should maintain its role as a sponsor of both experimental and other, more advanced but still transitional, networks and testbeds. As the history of U.S. network development has shown, sustained support is needed for the timely achievement of true innovations. During the past and current period of government and industrial support and growth, the technology of networking has advanced dramatically. Now, the advance of new technology is accelerating as asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) systems, fiber optics, wireless, mobile access, and other networking developments appear. To maintain this position, the federal government should continue to make funding for research in support of information infrastructure a priority. RECOMMENDATIONS The Vision of an Open Data Network The committee believes that the appropriate future communications infrastructure for the nation will come into existence only if its development is guided by a continuing and overarching vision of its purpose and architecture. Described here in terms of an Open Data Network, this open and extensible infrastructure is characterized by the following technical principles:

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond Open to all users, Open to all service providers, Open to all network providers, and Open to change. RECOMMENDATION 1: Leadership and Guidance The vision of a national information infrastructure (NII) as articulated by the administration emphasizes significant U.S. social and economic concerns but leaves largely unaddressed a number of critical technical issues. The technical roots associated with the National Research and Education Network program and other components of the larger High Performance Computing and Communications initiative must be effectively and consistently factored into that vision. The committee recommends that the federal government expand its NII agenda to embrace the Open Data Network (ODN) architecture as a technical framework for the design and deployment of the NII. Required is a stable mechanism to provide the following: Continued federal leadership in stimulating the development and deployment of an ODN architecture for the NII, integrating the technical, economic, and social considerations basic to achieving a truly national U.S. networking capability. Continued federal involvement in the development of standards for the NII. The committee does not conclude that the government should set the standards, but rather that it should support and participate in the ongoing standards-setting processes more effectively, bringing to those processes an advocacy for the public interest and for realization of an open and evolvable NII. To this end, the committee further recommends that the federal government designate a body responsible for overseeing the technical and policy aspects of the evolution of the NII and its applications. The Information Infrastructure Task Force (IITF), which focuses on policy issues, is not sufficient for this role; from the perspective of realizing the ODN architecture, it raises three concerns: (1) by design, the IITF focuses on nontechnical issues and is dominated by nontechnical perspectives; (2) it has the strengths and weaknesses of a cross-agency entity; and (3) it is an evolving construct with an uncertain future. The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), and its component Committee on Information and Communication R&D, which oversees the High Performance Computing and Communications Information Technology activity, is also not sufficient for this role; it raises these con-

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond cerns: (1) its mission is to coordinate R&D programs, and (2) it, too, has the strengths and weaknesses of a cross-agency entity. What appears to be needed is a body that will effectively blend the technical competence of the NSTC with the policy capabilities of the IITF and be able to function for the extended period of time required to develop and deploy an NII with an ODN architecture. RECOMMENDATION 2: Technology Deployment The committee recommends that the government work with the relevant industries, in particular the cable and telephone companies, to find suitable economic incentives so that the access circuits (connections to homes, schools, and so on) that will be reconstructed over the coming decade are engineered in ways that support the Open Data Network architecture. The term "engineering" refers to the process of choosing what equipment to deploy, when to deploy it, and in what configuration to deploy it so that customer needs are met at least cost. The committee concludes that a national infrastructure capturing the ODN architecture will not be widely deployed if competitive forces alone shape the future; deregulation, along likely lines, will not be sufficient to guide the development and deployment of the ODN architecture. While anecdotal, numerous comments from inside the cable and telephone industries suggest that the perceived costs of adding the features that support openness are discouraging the necessary investment in the current competitive climate. The committee therefore concludes that these features will not be incorporated in the evolving national information infrastructure without policy intervention. Needed now is direct action by government to ensure a planned, coordinated start to deploying the access circuit technology for the NII. RECOMMENDATION 3: Transitional Support The committee recommends that temporary subsidies of education and research institutions be considered in cases where the commercialization of the Internet generates exceptional funding distortions. The last decade has seen a powerful transformation of the activities of higher education and research in those segments where networking has become integral. Side effects of the shift away from a federally funded NSFNET backbone may include temporary disruption and financial hardship for some members of these communities, although overall the impact is expected to be limited.

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond RECOMMENDATION 4: K-12 Education The committee concludes that there is a clear and present opportunity to improve K-12 education by the integration of networking into the U.S. educational system. Consistent with recent legislative proposals and the selection of education as one of the emphases in the National Information Infrastructure initiative, the committee recommends the following: The federal government, through the Department of Education, should take a leadership role in articulating to other federal agencies, state departments of education, and other members of the education community the objectives and the benefits of networking in K-12 education. It should define a national agenda that can guide efforts at the state and local level. Since this leadership requires technical competence, the Department of Education should, in the short term, pursue collaborations with the National Science Foundation and other research agencies, but in the long term should acquire internal technical expertise at a sufficiently senior level. The Department of Education should set an aggressive agenda for research on telecomputing technology in education. This research should address benefits and applications of high-bandwidth communication and services and the transfer of related technologies to educational applications. The federal government should continue, and if possible expand, federal funding through matching grants, leveraging state, local, and industrial funds, to stimulate grass-roots deployment of networks in the schools. RECOMMENDATION 5: Network Research The committee recommends that the National Science Foundation, along with the Advanced Research Projects Agency, other Department of Defense research agencies, the Department of Energy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, continue and, in fact, expand a program of research in networks, with attention to emerging issues at the higher levels of an Open Data Network architecture (e.g., applications and information management), in addition to research at the lower levels of the architecture. The technical issues associated with developing and deploying an NII are far from resolved. Research can contribute to architecture, to new concepts for network services, and to new principles and designs in key areas such as security, scale, heterogeneity, and evolvability. It is important to ensure that this country maintains its clear technical leadership and competitive advantage in information infrastructure and networking.

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Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond Networks are emerging as significant tools of social change, creating a new kind of free market for information services and connectivity, and extending the boundaries for research and education in both time and space. The experiences of the research and education communities show that the Internet and NREN experiments are far from over—they have only just begun.