The Next Generation Internet (NGI) Initiative aims to speed up the Internet one thousand-fold while Internet 2 plans to bring the Internet into the 21st century. Each side of the coin (increased speed/better performance) needs the other to succeed. For once, government and industry are working in a complementary and even interdependent fashion.
No, everyday Internet users will not be able to access the NGI connecting major universities at a high rate of speed anytime soon. University research requires a greater speed and data capacity than the current traffic-congested Internet can support at this time. But, just as weather satellites and doctors treating long-distance patients via video hookups came out of the space program, new technology gained from both the NGI and Internet 2 will benefit ordinary Internet users as well as the intended industry, government, and university users.
Everyday Internet users will notice a big difference if Internet 2 is able to reach its goals which include (among others): "digital libraries featuring streaming high-fidelity audio and video content; easy-to-use real-time discussions with audio, video, text, and every window having 'whiteboard' features; [and] immersion environments supporting new forms of collaboration through 3-D, virtual shared presence...."
A good first step toward tomorrow's Internet is the Abilene Project. The Abilene Project (from the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development) will be an advanced backbone network separate from the current (commercial) Internet and so available for testing the new technologies as they are developed for the future upgrade of today's Internet. The Abilene Project plans to have the first researchers using the new network as early as January 1999.