(3 Mb Audio presentation.)

The Internet Railroad is the most ambitious piece of infrastructure in the Internet 1996 World Exposition, with a goal of building a backbone circling the world at 45 million bits per second. An important initial step for the railroad was made when U.S. Vice President Gore formally linked Expo 96 to the recent G-7 agreements for a series of projects to build a global information infrastructure.

Purpose of the Internet Railroad

The Internet Railroad is a dedicated series of high-speed telecommunications links for use in 1996. These high-speed links supplement the general-purpose Internet infrastructure. The Internet Railroad will be used to move public information, bypassing the general-purpose Internet infrastructure to provide a high-speed channel between regions:

  • Central Park servers, for example, will use the Railroad to move copies of fair data produced in Japan out to other portions of Central Park.
  • A user of the Internet in Europe might have his/her traffic to a fair video-on-demand server routed over the Railroad to a special server in Japan.

Commercial traffic will not run on the Internet Railroad. For traffic coming from Japan to Washington, D.C., for example, the existing commercial Internet links will be used for general-purpose transit traffic (e.g., a user on PSI Japan accesses the marketing server of Bay Networks).

The Internet Railroad will also be used for moving new kinds of Internet traffic. An experimental part of the Internet, the Multicast Backbone, has been used for real-time video and audio conferences. The Internet Railroad will allow large volumes of multicast traffic to be transmitted between regions of the world.

The Internet Railroad points the way towards a real global backbone. In the United States, the Internet started with a single government funded backbone, the NSFnet. Today, the NSFnet has been replaced with many high-speed commercial backbones. We hope that the Internet Railroad will help point the way to a true global information infrastructure in future years.

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