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Abstract -- Future Prospects for NSF's International Connections Program Activities Policy Track
P6: Government Services

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Future Prospects for NSF's International Connections Program Activities

Goldstein, Steven N. ( goldste@nsf.gov)


In 1991, the National Science Foundation awarded a five-year cooperative agreement with Sprint for International Connections Management to NSFNET (ICM). The purpose was to consolidate the management and engineering of connections between the U.S. research and education (R&E) communities and similar communities abroad. From the initial two links of 128 kbps each to Stockholm and southern France, the project has grown along with the Global Internet to the point that the two E1 links to Stockholm, 2 E1 links to London and T1 and E1 to Paris that will exist in early 1995 are not likely to be sufficient for more than a few months to meet capacity demands. In addition, the ICM project has made it easy for other countries to connect to the Global Internet by providing an infrastructure for interconnection and by making modest "port management fee" payments on behalf of the connecting countries. Latin American and Caribbean countries (in partnership with the Organization of American States) are connected to the ICM infrastructure, as are a growing number of Asian and Pacific countries. As an indication of the growth in demand for such countries Malaysia's initial 64 kbps connection is to be replaced with a T1; South Africa struggles to keep up with its demand as it looks toward 256 kbps and seeks ways to fund T1 bandwidth, and Costa Rica is on the verge of an upgrade from 64 kbps to 128 kbps for its R&E network, and a possible tie-in with RACSA's (the PTT) own international service for a 256 kbps link.

Meanwhile, the domestic NSFNET backbone service is transitioning to service provision by several general purpose ("commercial") Network Service Providers (NSPs) that interconnect at Network Access Points (NAPs). The NSFNET regional networks are themselves undergoing transitions to more general purpose service provision, especially as some are being purchased by commercial interests. So, as the demand continues to grow at a furious pace for intercontinental connectivity (in some cases, doubling every few months!), NSF anticipates a future in which every-day ("commodity") networking will be provided by general purpose service organizations, and the international links will be similarly provisioned. Our strategy is to attempt to "ratchet" the busiest intercontinental link capacities to the 34 - 45 Mbps range in the near term with an eye toward SONET/SDH capacities of 155 Mbps and higher in the longer range, while at the same time minimizing NSF's role in direct service provision. At this writing, the precise path to those ends is far from clear, but more insight will be presented to the point that it will have been clarified at the time of INET'95.