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Bill St. Arnaud is a consultant and research engineer who works with clients around the world on a variety of subjects such as next generation Internet networks and developing practical solutions to reduce CO2 emissions such as free broadband and dynamic charging of eVehicles. He is an author of many papers and articles on these topics and is a frequent guest speaker. For more details on my research interests see

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A personal perspective on the evolving Internet and Research and Education Networks

[Recently I was commissioned to write a paper as part of a submission to the FCC Network Neutrality hearings. But after writing the paper I started to realize it might have broader implication beyond network neutrality. In many ways it represents a synthesis of a number of seemingly unrelated topics that I have been working over the past decade from Green IT, user controlled networks to Citizen Science. As always comments, criticisms and suggestions most welcome –BSA]

A personal perspective on the evolving Internet and Research and Education Networks

Over the past few years the Internet has evolved from an “end-to-end” telecommunications service to a distributed computing information and content infrastructure. In the academic community this evolving infrastructure is often referred to as cyber-infrastructure or eInfrastructure .This evolution in the Internet was predicted by Van Jacobson several years ago and now seems readily evident by recent studies such as the Arbor report indicating that the bulk of Internet traffic is carried over this type of infrastructure as opposed to a general purpose routed Internet/optical network. This evolving Internet is likely to have profound impacts on Internet architectures and business models in the both the academic and commercial worlds. Increasingly traffic will be “local” with connectivity to the nearest cloud, content distribution network and or social network gateway at a local Internet Exchange (IX) point. Network topology and architecture will increasingly be driven by the needs of the applications and content rather than as general purpose infrastructure connecting users and devices. As a consequence the need to deploy to IPv6 addressing or ID/loc split may be superseded by DNS-type such as laye r 7 XML routing. This new Internet will more easily allow the deployment of low carbon infrastructure and create new challenges and opportunities in terms of last mile ownership and network neutrality. Customer owned networks and tools like User Controlled LightPath (UCLP) and Reverse Passive Optical Networks (RPON) may become more relevant in order to allow users to connect directly to the distributed content and application infrastructure at a nearby IX. Research and Education (R&E) networks may play a critical leadership role in developing new Internet business strategies for zero carbon mobile Internet solutions interconnecting next generation multi-channel RF mobile devices to this infrastructure using “white space” and Wifi spectrum. Perhaps ultimately these developments will lay the foundation for a National Public Internet (NPI) where R&E networks deploy transit and/or internet exchanges in smaller communities and cities to support distribution of content and information from not for profit organizations to the general public.

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