U develops two new programs to improve Internet access for students

Melinda Rogers

University students will soon be able to access a higher volume of information from the Internet at a faster pace thanks to two new innovations from the University’s Networking and Telecommunications Services.
A program called Local Exchange Point is being developed to allow a meeting point for local Internet service providers and a new program called Virtual Private Network will give students access to more reference Web sites on campus starting spring semester.
“(The programs) are meant to enable students to have a greater access to the Web,” said John Miller, director of the Department of Networking and Telecommunications Services.
Local Exchange Point allows Internet providers to send requests for a variety of information from the World Wide Web directly through the University using a local connection, instead of sending requests to places as far away as Chicago — saving time and long distance expenses.
“It’s not good from a technological viewpoint or an economic viewpoint if the University has to pay a service provider to receive their requests back from Chicago, or the East or West Coast,” said David Farmer, a network design engineer for Networking and Telecommunications Services.
Subscribers using a University connection will receive quicker responses to their information requests and also save money by using Local Exchange Point.
“This benefits subscribers by saving money, but also benefits University users,” Miller said. “Screens will refresh much quicker when students are doing research on the Web.”
A second program the University is working on, the Virtual Private Network, will allow software on a customer’s home computer to connect to the University’s VPN server over the Internet. Once connected, a customer will be able to gain access to a University Internet provider address which will allow them to access services from the University library among other things.
“The VPN allows you to look like you are a part of the University system. A person can access services that they would otherwise have to subscribe to and pay for,” Farmer said.
Equipment for the Virtual Private Network is in the process of being purchased. Farmer hopes the service will be ready to use by Jan. 1.
Local Exchange Point is currently assisting one service provider and waiting to assist University contracted providers Quest, Onvoy and Media One.
“Local Exchange Point will be an exciting improvement in networking in the Twin Cities. Hopefully it will improve the Twin Cities’ stature as a progressive ‘network city’,” Farmer said.
Miller is also optimistic about the impact the new programs will have beyond the University community.
“By fostering direct communications we not only benefit the University, but the entire community.”

Melinda Rogers covers science and technology and welcomes comments at [email protected]