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Subject: "A Perspective on NREN" by Greg Chartrand

By Greg Chartrand (10) <Greg_Chartrand@qmail.ssc.gov>

National Science Foundation Develops a National Super Highway Greg Chartrand 3/11/93

"I just returned from a network meeting in San Diego today and thought you would be interested in my interpretation of what NSF proposes for the National Education and Research Network (NREN). Rather than comment specifically, I decided it would be interesting to write a parody which relates the NREN to the construction of a national super highway. Doing so removes the highly technical aspects of the overall planned functions the NREN. Please excuse this style, but I think its the only way to explain my understanding of their plan in a way that does not immediately get very technical. It may be flawed, but the information is based upon Hans-Werner Braun's presentation.... as I understood it."

The National Science Foundation is in the process of developing plans to build a national super highway that will advance transportation technology in our country. The super highway proposed will replace the existing interstate highway system and allow speeds of at least 240 MPH. the following interview with NSF developers explores their current plans.


ME: I understand you are building a new Super national highway(11) to serve the purposes of advancing ground transportation throughout our county.

NSF: Yes we are, as a part of an earlier initiative sponsored by the then Senator Gore. We are very excited about the technology that will allow transportation speeds of 240 MPH(12) across the country. ME: That sounds exciting, how will it be built?

NSF: Well, we will have this super highway designed to allow the high speed travel(13) and it will have six entrance/exit ramps.(14) ME: Ahh.... that doesn't sound like very many ramps, where will they be located?

NSF: Well, several years ago we funded the establishment of six gourmet restaurants(15) scattered across the country, we are going to fund the building of the super highway and access ramps at the restaurant locations. We are however allowing the ramp contractor(16) to build as many ramps as he wishes, at his own expense.

ME: I assume then the contractor for the highway(17) builds ramps where ever it makes sense to optimize access.

NSF: Well, not exactly. We are separating the contracts for the ramps and the highway so the bidders can be very competitive.

ME: I see. How to you plan to connect the rest of the interstate highway system(18) to your super national highway?

NSF: Well actually, its not part of our plan. We are having the highway and access ramps built for us, its up to the states or other government agencies to provide the highways to the access ramps. We will however fund a few temporary roads(19) to connect parts of the existing interstate highway system, but don't intend to make them permanent. Did I forget to mention that we will be shutting down the existing interstate highway system?(20)

ME: You mean I will no longer be able to drive across the existing interstate highway system?

NSF: Yes, it will be destroyed.

ME: OK, lets see If I understand. I have a state highway system for example, and I put in a connecting highway to your super highway, and I can now travel on it, right?

NSF: Well, no you can't. The super highway will only be used for vehicles that can run 240 MPH(21) and we must approve every vehicle, destination, and trip the vehicle takes.(22) We don't want our super highway clogged with vehicles which can only travel 70 MPH!(23)

ME: I'm confused. You mean you want my state for example, to build an access road to a super highway it can't generally use?

NSF: Well, yes and no. You see we also want to encourage development of toll roads in our country.(24) Our six high speed access ramps are wide enough to allow parallel toll roads to be accessed as well as our super highway. Private road builders will be able to put in toll roads between our access ramps, for a fee.

ME: So there will no longer be a "free" interstate highway system?

NSF: Right!

ME: Lets see if I got this straight. You build a national super highway that has six access ramps located where you once established gourmet restaurants and you destroy the interstate highway system. There are no plans to replicate the functionality of the interstate highway systems, but you will allow private toll road builders to use your wide access ramps and develop parallel toll roads to your super highway. My state or the government has to build the roads that lead to the super highway, but once there, cannot travel on it unless the specific vehicle can run at 240 MPH and has specific permission from you to travel on it.

NSF: You've got it!

ME: Well then you must have a very interesting reason to put this highway and the access ramps at these restaurant locations.

NSF: Well, you see, the gourmet food business isn't what it used to be. Fast food has really taken over in our country, we really need to preserve the gourmet food business.(25) High quality restaurants should be located right off of classy high speed highways. We really would like to encourage restaurant patrons to use the super highway so they can have breakfast in San Diego and dinner in Champaign Illinois. We will be looking for patrons who can afford to eat at multiple restaurants and we will let them ride the highway for free! Of course they must have a vehicle that can go 240 MPH.(26)

ME: I'm even more confused. How will I get across the country?

NSF: Well, if your state puts in an access road to one of our access ramps you take it, and then exit-off on to one of the toll roads that will be built parallel to our super highway.

ME: How fast will I be able to go?(27)

NSF: What ever the speed limit is on the toll road.

ME: What will it cost me to ride on it?

NSF: What ever the toll is. You see, we expect that several toll roads will be developed. Competition! It should keep the price down.

ME: When the super highway is empty, how will it be used?

NSF: Well, we are telling the gourmet restaurants that they should work together even though they will be competing with each other for customers.(28) You know, they could develop plans to send trash to each other so they can demonstrate how fast the transportation is on the super highway, it would be in their best interest.(29)

ME: Aren't there plans for development of high speed toll roads already in progress by several toll road builders? What makes you think they will put their roads in-between your access ramps?(30)


ME: What?

NSF: Field Of Dreams. If we build it they will come.

ME: So again, tell me who pays for what?

NSF: The government funds the super highway and six access ramps. The toll road providers build their own roads and pays an access fee for the ramps. The states and other government agencies pay for any roads necessary to get to the access ramps. When you get on a toll road and pay what ever the price is.

ME: And the only one's allowed to ride on the super highway are those persons who have special vehicles that can go 240 MPH with your specific permission, or those who can afford to frequent the gourmet restaurants and travel at 240 MPH. Everyone else takes the toll roads.

NSF: Right, but don't forget the trash runs between restaurants!

ME: Oh, how silly of me! Hmmmm. I wonder if this is really what Senator Gore had in mind?

"If we do not succeed, then we face the risk of failure."
--- Vice President Dan Quayle

"What a terrible thing to have lost one's mind.
Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is."
--- Vice President Dan Quayle
(winning friends while speaking to the United Negro College Fund)

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