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Scientists: Internet speed record smashed

By Jeordan Legon

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(CNN) -- Offering a glimpse of a faster digital future, researchers announced they have set a new Internet speed record.

Scientists at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center used fiber-optic cables to transfer 6.7 gigabytes of data -- the equivalent of two DVD movies -- across 6,800 miles in less than a minute.

Pushing the tech envelope

The team was able to transfer uncompressed data at 923 megabits per second for 58 seconds from Sunnyvale, California, to Amsterdam, Netherlands. That's about 3,500 times faster than a typical Internet broadband connection.

"By exploring the edges of Internet technologies' performance envelope, we are improving our ... ability to implement new networking technologies," said Les Cottrell, assistant director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, a national laboratory operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy.

The experiment could "bring high-speed data transfer to practical everyday applications, such as doctors at multiple sites sharing and discussing a patient's [heart test results] to diagnose and plan treatment," he added.

On average, the amount of information that can be transferred over the Internet has doubled every year since 1984, scientists said. That trend is expected to continue.

Breaking their record

The data was sent via fiber-optic cables from Sunnyvale, California, to Chicago, Illinois. From Chicago, the data was relayed to Geneva, Switzerland, and from there on to Amsterdam, Netherlands. The information traveled the 6,800 miles in less than a minute.

Already, Cottrell said he and other scientists have conducted further experiments that break their own record. But those tests have not been certified by Internet2, a consortium of 200 universities researching the future of the Internet, and they must wait for further confirmation before an announcement, he said.

Initially, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center employees expect to use the faster data transfer speeds to share massive amounts of research collected by physicists studying the fundamental building blocks of matter. But in the long term, Internet users and businesses could benefit from the findings.

"Imagine ... being able to download two full-length, two-hour movies within a minute," Cottrell said. "That changes the whole idea of how media is distributed."

Getting there won't be easy, said Harvey Newman, a physics professor at the California Institute of Technology who participated in the center's research.

Allowing clean transfers

start quoteYou have this inversion where the limitations on advances will not be the speed of the Internet but rather the speed of your computer.end quote
-- Harvey Newman, California Institute of Technology

Scientists were able to get 93 percent efficiency out of their record-setting connection because they didn't have to share bandwidth, they received donated equipment in excess of $1 million and they changed the setting of Internet protocols to allow faster data transfers, Newman said.

Even if they could transfer vast amounts of data tomorrow at reasonable prices, Newman noted that present-day computers are unable to handle such loads.

"You have this inversion where the limitations on advances will not be the speed of the Internet but rather the speed of your computer," he said.

Scientists said the finding announced Thursday hopefully will help researchers develop a clearer plan for faster online technologies.

"We don't have a vision of the future of the Internet yet," Newman said. "It's a whole new world for which you can see the first few ideas, but we don't really know what it will be about."

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