The Abilene Network is a high speed 10 GBPS backbone that connects many facilities of the US research community with one another. A network map showing performance in real time may be found on the Abilene home page. Abilene is the hardware over which Internet2 runs, providing a test bed of advanced services and capabilities: for example IPv6 and multicasting technologies, the purpose of which is to provide an Internet transmission of the full motion video and high quality audio used for HD TV transmission. This service supports many projects, including transmission of medical operations from one hospital to another, test transmissions of 3-D video.
Not every one can connect to Abilene; you need to be either an educational facility or a research organization. However, it is possible to be sponsored by an Internet2 member and thus obtain an Abilene Network connection, as is described on the How to Connect Page of the Web site. You can write to email@example.com to find out if your organization can qualify for a direct connection, or to obtain a list of sponsoring organizations. Among the organizations that qualify are schools (K-12 through universities), educational organizations such as libraries and museums, and certain qualifying non-profit organizations.
Connecting to the Internet2 through Abilene is not cheap; the minimum connection required is an OC-12c (622 Mbps). You'll first need to check to see if you can get this connection to your location. However, the expense and effort involved in setting up this connection offers you the opportunity to work in a computing networking environment with unique capabilities that may not be generally available to a broader audience for many years to come.
Barrie Sosinsky is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.