UT Receives $4 Million Computer Network Contract (360)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee has received a $4 million National Science Foundation contract to direct installation of a high-speed, next generation Internet network between the United States and Russia.

Rita Colwell, NSF director, announced the five-year contract Monday in Washington, D. C. Indiana University received a $10 million award that will connect the United States and Asia. The contracts are part of NSF’s high performance international network program.

The UT-Russia project, called MirNET, is an expansion of a five-year collaboration with Russia through the university’s “Friends and Partners” program, UT President Joe Johnson said. Friends and Partners is a worldwide web-based educational and cultural exchange between the two countries.

“Improving international relations, distance learning capabilities and opportunities for collaboration between our top scientists and educators are important priorities for our university,” Johnson said.

Moscow State University and the Russian Institute of Public Networking are partners in the MirNET. Russia’s Ministry of Science and Technology has pledged $2.5 million to the effort, Colwell said.

The $6.5 million in U.S. and Russian funds will be used to design and maintain the network and pay for the trans-Atlantic fiber optic telecommunications link.

Joe Gipson and Greg Cole will direct the MirNET project at UT. Both are graduates of the UT-Knoxville computer science department.

Cole, director of the Center for International Networking Initiatives at UT-Knoxville, said the high-speed computer network, expected to be available for use in December, will provide research and educational opportunities for institutions and laboratories throughout the United States and Russia.

Scientists in both countries will be able to use sophisticated equipment, located thousands of miles away, to conduct experiments that would traditionally require international travel, said Gipson, UT-Knoxville director of Telecommunications and Network Services.

Knoxville could become a center for international conferences involving the United States, Russia and other countries, UT-Knoxville Chancellor Bill Snyder said. Scientists and students will benefit from direct interaction with their Russian counterparts using classroom-to-classroom distance learning capabilities, he said.

An October 1996 announcement in Knoxville by President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore led to the NSF program that made MirNET possible. Clinton and Gore announced the creation of the Next Generation Internet initiative here.

Contact: Greg Cole (423-974-7277), Joe Gipson (423-974-6616)