Internet Pioneers, Leaders Convene to Commemorate NSFNET 35th Anniversary
Virtual celebration will feature luminaries from public and private sectors celebrating NSFNET’s contributions and sharing outlook for the future of the internet.
WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 4, 2020 – Internet2 and the Internet Society will host a free, public virtual celebration on Tuesday, December 8 at 1 pm ET to mark the 35th anniversary of the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET), a set of projects and networking activities that supported and promoted networking in education and research in the United States, which became the direct predecessor of today’s internet.
Internet evangelist Dr. Vinton G. Cerf and Former Vice President Al Gore will open the formal event program by reflecting on the early days of NSFNET. Cerf, widely known as one of the “Fathers of the Internet,” is the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the internet. Gore was an early advocate and supporter for the development of the internet, and in 1998, unveiled Abilene, the national backbone of Internet2’s first-generation research and education network.
“NSFNET was a pivotal program and collaborative endeavor that laid the foundation of not just our nation’s research and education networks, but the global internet as we are experiencing it today,” said Ana Hunsinger, vice president of community engagement at Internet2. “We’re excited to work alongside our colleagues in bringing important conversations to the public about the trajectory of internet development and the possibilities that internet governance and development holds for our collective future.”
Cerf and Gore’s conversation will be followed by a presentation by Dennis Jennings, former first program director for networking at the National Science Foundation, on the key decisions made that underpinned the success of the NSFNET program and led to the global internet. Other speakers include leaders from Internet2, the Internet Society, and the NSF Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering.
“It is fitting that we celebrate the 35th anniversary of NSFNET in 2020, a year that keeps showing us how important the internet is to the world’s economies and societies. If it hadn’t been for the NSFNET, none of this would have happened. We are beneficiaries of this good fortune only because of good decisions 35 years ago,” said Andrew Sullivan, president and CEO of the Internet Society.
Howard Pfeffer, president and CEO of Internet2, will present on the importance of the NSFNET backbone network as a catalyst for the creation of Internet2’s high-speed network, and will share his observations on Internet2 today and its role in the research and education community. Andrew Sullivan, president and CEO of Internet Society, will present on his organization’s efforts in growing and strengthening the internet, and their critical areas of focus for the future of the internet.
Margaret Martonosi, assistant director for computer and information science and engineering at the National Science Foundation, will present on broadening access to a rich federation of NSF‑supported and other research resources. Her talk will give a sketch of that vision, grounded in current NSF activities. The event will conclude with a moderated panel session addressing questions from the audience.
“The NSFNET35 event is a wonderful chance both to look back and to look forward,” Martonosi said. “Just as NSF investments were key to the broad rollout of the Internet 35 years ago, we now have the opportunity to envision a future where NSF can promote broad and inclusive access to a confederation of vital research computing resources, through approaches that move towards a National Research Cloud.”
Participation in the virtual event is free and open to the public, however registration is required. More information can be found on the event website.
Resources for the media:
- Speaker biographies and headshots
- Timeline and Videos: NSF and the Birth of the Internet (Courtesy NSF)
- Maps of Internet Growth 1960s through 1990s (pdf) (Courtesy NSF)
- Map of the Internet 2007 (pdf) (Courtesy NSF)
- Management of NSFNET. This document is a transcript of a 1992 hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Science of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, which had oversight over the NSFNET project. (Courtesy NSF)
- NSFNET: A Partnership for High-Speed Networking Final Report (pdf). This report was produced in 1995 by MERIT Networks, Inc., one of the original NSFNET partners. It provides a summary of the project and the conditions that lead to the decision to decommission the network in 1995. (Courtesy NSF)
- Retiring the NSFNET Backbone Service: Chronicling the End of an Era. A year after the NSFNET was retired in 1995, Susan R. Harris, Ph.D., and Elise Gerich wrote this article about the project for the journal ConneXions. (Courtesy Merit Network)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Journalists interested in conducting interviews with speakers from the NSFNET 35th Anniversary Celebratory Virtual Event should contact Sara Aly (firstname.lastname@example.org), Internet2 Communications.
Internet2® is a non-profit, member-driven advanced technology community founded by the nation’s leading higher education institutions in 1996. Internet2 serves 323 U.S. universities, 60 government agencies, 43 regional and state education networks and through them supports more than 100,000 community anchor institutions, over 1,000 InCommon participants, and 56 leading corporations working with our community, and 70 national research and education network partners that represent more than 100 countries.
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About Internet Society
Founded in 1992 by Internet pioneers, the Internet Society (ISOC) is a global non-profit organization working to ensure the Internet remains a force for good for everyone. Through its community of members, special interest groups, and 120+ chapters around the world, the organization defends and promotes Internet policies, standards, and protocols that keep the Internet open, globally connected, and secure. For more information, please visit: internetsociety.org.
About the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE)
The CISE Directorate of the National Science Foundation supports investigator-initiated research and education in all areas of computer and information science and engineering, fosters broad interdisciplinary collaboration, helps develop and maintain cutting-edge national cyberinfrastructure for research and education, and contributes to the development of a computer and information technology workforce with skills necessary for success in the increasingly competitive global market.
Sara Aly, Internet2