A massive project to redesign and rebuild the Internet from scratch is inching along with $12 million in government funding and donations of network capacity by two major research organizations.

Many researchers want to rethink the Internet's underlying architecture, saying a "clean-slate" approach is the only way to truly address security and other challenges that have cropped up since the Internet's birth in 1969.

On behalf of the government, BBN Technologies Inc. is overseeing the planning and design of the Global Environment for Network Innovations, or GENI, a network on which researchers will be able to test new ideas without damaging the current Internet.

The $12 million in initial grants from the National Science Foundation will go to developing prototypes for the GENI network.

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To test these prototypes, the Internet2 organization is contributing 10 gigabits per second of dedicated bandwidth, so researchers won't have to worry about normal Internet traffic interfering with their experiments.

National LambdaRail is offering another 30 gigabits per second of capacity, though it won't be dedicated to GENI at all times.

The bandwidth is thousands of times faster than standard home broadband connections — enough to run 30 high-quality movies into your home simultaneously.

Craig Partridge, chief scientist at BBN Technologies, said the commitments amounted to an important endorsement of GENI by two organizations that run ultra-high-speed networks for universities and other researchers to conduct data-intensive projects.

Construction on GENI could start in about five years and cost $350 million. Congress still has to approve those funds.