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Merit Network Commemorates Historic Networking Initiative

ANN ARBOR – Merit Network, Inc., Michigan’s research and education networking organization, today announced its participation in a celebratory event that will recognize the impact and achievements of the National Science Foundation’s NSFNET program. NSFNET comprised a set of projects and networking activities that became the direct predecessor of today’s Internet.
NSFNET was launched in 1985 to support and promote networking in education and research in the United States. The NSFNET backbone network, launched as a nationwide 56 kbps network in 1985, grew to T1 and then T3 capacity by 1991, providing network access to thousands of universities and research facilities. In 1995, the NSFNET network was transitioned to become the basis of today’s commercial Internet. Merit Network led the networking project that built the NSFNET backbone between 1987 and 1995, with partners IBM, MCI and Advanced Network and Services, Inc. and support from the Michigan Strategic Fund.

At the celebratory event, which takes place November 29-30 in Arlington, Va., participants will discuss NSFNET’s history, celebrate its contributions, and consider the major impact the Internet has had on science, education, research and commerce.

The event has been planned by a committee of NSFNET program leaders from several organizations. Merit is represented by President and CEO Donald J. Welch, President Emeritus Eric M. Aupperle, and Manger of Professional Events and Communities Andy Rosenzweig. Douglas E. Van Houweling, President and CEO of Internet2, served as Chair of the Merit Board of Directors when Merit initiated its involvement in NSFNET, and is also a member of the program committee.

Several former Merit staff members who contributed to the development of the NSFNET backbone network will participate as speakers and panelists. Aupperle and Van Houweling will discuss the origins of the NSFNET program and Merit’s involvement in it. Former Michigan Governor James J. Blanchard will speak about the Michigan Strategic Fund’s financial contribution to Merit’s successful proposal to manage the NSFNET backbone.

About the NSFNET Event

The NSFNET event will be held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia. Registration is required. There will also be a webcast of the event, available to the public. The event begins the morning of Thursday, November 29, with a formal program throughout the day and a gala reception and dinner following in the evening. The program resumes the morning of Friday, November 30, and concludes that afternoon. The program includes speakers and panelists who directed the NSFNET program, did research and scholarship across the network, and built services and businesses in the resulting network economy. Sponsors of the event include Advanced Network & Services, Inc., Cisco Systems, IBM, Juniper Networks and the National Science Foundation, with organizational support from Merit Network and Internet2. More information about the event and about the NSFNET is available at

About Merit Network

Merit Network Inc., is a nonprofit corporation owned and governed by Michigan’s public universities. Merit owns and operates America’s longest-running regional research and education network. In 1966, Michigan’s public universities created Merit as a shared resource to help meet their common need for networking assistance. Since its formation, Merit Network has remained at the forefront of research and education networking expertise and services. Merit provides high-performance networking and IT solutions to Michigan’s public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations. For more information: