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NSF and MCI Agree to Three-Year No-Cost Extension of vBNS.

Network Will Be Available to U.S. Universities Through March 2003

WASHINGTON, April 10 /PRNewswire/ --

The National Science Foundation and MCI WorldCom have agreed to a three-year, no-cost extension that will keep the very high performance Backbone Network System (vBNS) operating until at least 2003.

The network connects 94 U.S. universities to other research institutions at speeds up to 2.4 gigabits per second. Most of the schools connect at 620 megabits per second. A gigabit and a megabit equal one billion and one million bits, respectively.

The original cooperative agreement ran from April 1, 1995 to March 31, 2000.

NSF paid MCI $10 million per year during that period to build and manage vBNS. The extension means the network will remain in service at least until March 31, 2003, at no cost to NSF. MCI owns the vBNS infrastructure.

NSF has made High Performance Connections (HPC) awards to 177 universities, which may connect to either vBNS or Abilene, a similar research network. At present, vBNS provides connections for 101institutions, including 94 HPC awardees.

The two-year HPC awards average $350,000, matched equally by each recipient. The extension agreement means that MCI will continue to make the service available, although universities will incur 100 percent of the costs once their HPC grants end.

The vBNS schools can continue to purchase MCI services under existing contracts, at prices guaranteed in the original NSF-MCI agreement.

"The extension upholds our responsibility to ensure that the university research community is well-served by vBNS," said Aubrey Bush, director of the NSF Advanced Networking Infrastructure and Research (ANIR) division. "The three-year extension aligns with the known lifetimes of other networks like Abilene and STAR TAP to keep us moving forward with multiple, interoperable backbones."

STAR TAP is the NSF-funded hub connecting U.S. research networks internationally to sites in Europe and Asia.

Universities with high performance connections capitalize on supercomputing resources made available through NSF's Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) program. The vBNS also provides advanced connectivity to other U.S. research networks, including the Department of Energy's ESNET and the NASA Research and Education Network.

NSF is an independent federal agency that supports all fields of science, mathematics and engineering. MCI WorldCom is a global communications company with revenue of more than $30 billion and operations in over 65 countries.

For more information about ANIR and vBNS, see: http://www.cise.nsf.gov/anir/.
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Date:Apr 10, 2000
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