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Scientists Set New Internet Speed Record

A Verizon lineman grips the strands contained in a fiber optic cable.
Mark Lennihan
A Verizon lineman grips the strands contained in a fiber optic cable.

Now, we all have reason to complain about the speed of our Internet connection. Scientists announced yesterday that they have broken the Internet speed record by transferring data at 186 Gbps between two cities.

The scientists at Caltech collaborated with those at the University of Victoria, the University of Michigan, the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) and Florida International University to build an optical network between University of Victoria Computing Centre located in Victoria, British Columbia, and the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. The network achieved a speed that could transfer 100,000 full Blu-ray discs in a day. The network was able to transfer 98 Gbps in one direction and 88 Gbps in the other. The previous record, said Caltech, was set in 2009 with a speed of 119 Gbps.

Naturally, you're asking yourself, what's the use of broadband this wide?

In a press releaseCaltech explains:

The fast transfer rate is also crucial for dealing with the tremendous amounts of data coming from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the particle accelerator that physicists hope will help them discover new particles and better understand the nature of matter, and space and time, solving some of the biggest mysteries of the universe. More than 100 petabytes (more than four million Blu-ray disks) of data have been processed, distributed, and analyzed using a global grid of 300 computing and storage facilities located at laboratories and universities around the world, and the data volume is expected to rise a thousand-fold as physicists crank up the collision rates and energies at the LHC.

"Enabling scientists anywhere in the world to work on the LHC data is a key objective, bringing the best minds together to work on the mysteries of the universe," says David Foster, the deputy IT department head at CERN.

"The 100-Gbps demonstration at SC11 is pushing the limits of network technology by showing that it is possible to transfer petascale particle physics data in a matter of hours to anywhere around the world," adds Randall Sobie, a research scientist at the Institute of Particle Physics in Canada and team member.

For a little perspective, the BBC reports that current fiber optic networks have a top speed of 1 Gbps. Verizon's FIOS, which boasts a blazing network, delivers a top speed of 150 Mbps.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.