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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

Thursday, January 6, 2011

R&E networks and universities can once again revolutionize Internet and digital society

[Few people realize that Internet and many of its fundamental applications such as the web were created by the university and R&E network community.   Innovation and fundamental economic transformation by R&E networks  continues to this day in all sorts of related  fields.
The explosion of dark fiber and customer owned networks was enabled largely by R&E networks in the 90s, which for example in the Netherlands  (SURFnet)  and Quebec (RISQ)  allowed much  greater competition and lower telecommunication costs for businesses, governments and schools.  In the Netherlands, in particular this resulted in an explosion of new digital business such as data centers, IXs, and Fiber to the Home projects. The R&E network community was also the first to widely deploy low cost  lightpath technology  to enable all sorts of advanced applications not only for academic researchers but to address the wider needs of society.  A good example is the national breast cancer research and screening program provided by SURFnet’s lightpaths on its R&E network

In today’s tough financial environment many R&E networks are wrestling with difficult decisions on whether to focus on solely on being a support organization for academic research and cyber-infrastructure, or continuing to play an important role in innovation  and addressing issues that are in the larger national public interest.

I am pleased to see that Internet 2 is looking at this question and is undertaking an active program to  address larger networking issues that are in the national public interest from health care to security through their deployment of UCAN – the University Community Anchor Network.  This initiative will build upon Internet 2’s existing network infrastructure which in partnership with regional networks and community networks funded by BTOP and will connect up as many 200,000 community hospitals, libraries, research parks, public service agencies etc.  I highly recommend listening to an interview by David Lambert, the new CEO of Internet 2 on his vision for UCAN and the role of R&E networks.  It is very inspiring to hear how the university and R&E network community recognize the role that R&E networks have not only supporting academic research but also helping address the larger issues facing our society:

How Internet2 Plans to Spend $62.5-Million in Stimulus Funds

As many of you know I have long been advocating this important role for R&E networks. To my mind R&E networks can continue to play a critical role in addressing in innovation and addressing many of issues that in our the national public interest  - such as climate change,  next generation 5G wireless networks, open access community networks, accelerated deployment of IPv6/DNSSEC, etc

For example Internet and information technologies in general are the fastest growing contributor to global warming. More alarming is the fact that the education and research sector is the largest component of this rapidly growing sector.  To my mind it is therefore critically important that the university and R&E networks play a critical leadership role in this field.

This is only example. There are many others which you can read about in my blog on this subject

Green Internet Consultant. Practical solutions to reducing GHG emissions such as free broadband and electric highways.

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