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of capabilities would have cost implications and is economically
feasible only to the extent that it provides value to the user well
in excess of the incremental costs. This is problematic if one
accepts one of our fundamental hypotheses, namely, that we cannot
possibly anticipate all the big-hitting applications of the NII.
However, it should be emphasized that it is not necessary that all
near-term deployments provide all the capabilities incorporated
into a strategic vision. Indeed, one critical aspect of such a
vision is that it should be easy and cost effective to add new
technologies and capabilities to the NII as unanticipated
applications and user needs emerge. If this is achieved, it is only
necessary that near-term investments be compatible with a long-term
strategic vision, and hence not preclude future possibilities or
force later disinvestment and widespread replacement of
infrastructure. This is admittedly not straightforward but is
nevertheless a worthwhile goal.
One can anticipate the NII falling somewhere on the spectrum
from a collection of proprietary and noninteroperable networks
(largely the situation today) to a single, universal network that
appears to the user to seamlessly and effortlessly meet all user
needs. We argue that from the user perspective the NII should,
although consisting internally of a diversity of heterogeneous
transport and terminal technologies, offer the seamless deployment
of a wide range of applications and openness to new applications.
Not all participants in the NII may judge this to be in their best
interest, and of course they all encounter serious cost and
time-to-market constraints. However, if they take into account
longer-term opportunities in the course of their near-term business
decisions, we believe that both theythe usersand the
nation will benefit greatly in the long term. It is our hope that
the NII 2000 technology deployment project will move the collective
deliberations in this direction.
First we define some consistent terminology for the remainder of
this white paper.
The users of the NII are people. The NII will consist of a
network (or more accurately a collection of networks) to which are
attached access nodes at its edge. We distinguish between two types
of devices connected to access nodes: information and applications
servers, and user terminals (for simplicity, we will abbreviate
these to servers and terminals). A networked application is a set
of functionality that makes use of the transport services of the
network and the processing power in the servers and terminals, and
provides value to users. Servers make databases or information
sources available to the terminals, or provide processing power
required to provision applications. Users interact directly with
terminals, which provide the user interface and may also provision
processing power or intelligence in support of applications.
Examples of terminals are desktop computers, wireless handheld
PDAs, and CATV set-top boxes.
There are two generic classes of applications: user-to-user or
communications applications, and user-to-server or information
access applications. These can be mixed, for example, a
collaborative application that combines voice telephony with
The business entities involved in the operation of the NII are
network service providers, who provision the transmission and
switching equipment in the network, and application service
providers, who provision the servers and maintain the databases
involved in the applications. These may be one and the same, as is
the case for the telephone application in the public telephone
network. The users may be the application service provider, as when
they load software purchased at a computer store on their
terminals. Other entities involved are the equipment vendors, who
develop, manufacture, and market the equipment (transmission,
switching, terminals, etc.), and the application vendors, who
develop and market applications for deployment in the NII.
Logical Connectivity of a Network
The most basic property of a network from a user perspective is
the logical connectivity it offers. The network is said to provide
logical connectivity between two access nodes if it is feasible to
transport data between those nodes through the network. When one
access node sends data to another access node, we call the former