Developments To Watch
THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY MAY GO FOUR-LANE
For years, federal agencies have been laying the groundwork for a $400 million "information highway" that would link scientists and schools to far-flung supercomputers and libraries. That vision got a boost on Nov. 22 when Congress passed a supercomputer bill, adding its stamp to the Bush Administration's plans for such a network.
Instead of starting from scratch, the idea is to expand an existing science network called NSFnet into the world's highest-capacity information superhighway, dubbed the National Research & Education Network. Currently, NSFnet is managed by a joint venture between IBM and MCI Communications Corp. under National Science Foundation auspices. But critics say this monopoly could hamper innovation and offers an unfair edge on potentially lucrative spin-offs. So, also on Nov. 22, the National Science Board approved a plan to put management of the network up for bid again early next year--with two operators, not one. "It will give us two avenues for infusions of new technology and new ideas about management and operation," says NSF networking chief Stephen S. Wolff.EDITED BY ROBERT BUDERI