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All About GUPS

As an undergraduate at University of California, San Diego, I had an internship at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). At the time, academia was nurturing and popularizing Internet email with many of the primary email servers responsible for all email delivery housed at places like SDSC. One afternoon in the visualization laboratory I witnessed a demo of the first web browser (called Mosaic) developed by our sister computer center NCSA. I remember marveling at a page of clickable words I later learned were called hyperlinks. (Some in the Mosaic development team went on to form Netscape.) It's undeniable that both email and web browsing were ideas fermented and popularized by universities around the world.

Today some of those same universities are blazing the trail of another digital trend that is poised to sweep the world - an initiative called GUPS or Global University Phone System. The idea is to link phones systems directly to the Internet to allow calling between universities and also between all PCs on the Internet. With GUPS, phone calls flow across the Internet as freely as email and instant messages, bypassing all per-call charges, international toll charges and local costs.

For the past six weeks, we've been running GUPS in test mode. During that time we've deployed VOIP (Voice Over IP) systems at Universities around the world and routed tens of

Take a look at a graphical representation of GUPS
thousands of calls. Universities can directly dial telephone numbers of other participating institutions as they normally would. However, using GUPS, calls never touch the old-world phone system but instead travel along the same path as their data traffic. In addition, any PC can direct-dial university telephone numbers. Click here for a graphical representation of GUPS.

Most amazing perhaps is that any university phone can call any PC anywhere in the world by simply dialing a regular-looking telephone number. In all cases, the calls use crystal-clear digital transmission and there are no charges. You can test it for yourself by installing Gizmo Project and dialing right from your PC.

By using GUPS, universities can reduce telecommunication bills substantially since calls from and to sister schools are now free. This is what we're seeing between University of California campuses like UC Irvine, UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego which are now exchanging thousands of calls using GUPS. And the savings will only increase as more Universities join GUPS. With the current tight budgets at these institutions, any savings that doesn't reduce the quality of the establishment is a great thing.

It's not just about cost savings, but also about encouraging more communication flow from universities. Colleges are warehouses of knowledge and learning. Eliminating communication costs will encourage collaboration and information dissemination.

GUPS is powered by open standards and Linux. Each school uses a secure Linux computer that acts like translator from the school's phone system to SIP an IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) standard, which is then connected to the Internet. (It's imperative to use an open standard like SIP so the entire world can work seamlessly together rather than have a hodgepodge of silos controlled by one company interested only in profit maximization.) Because the computers run cost-effective Linux software they cost under $600. This one-time cost can permanently reduce - and eventually eliminate - phone charges. My educational foundation REEF is providing the equipment at no charge to eligible universities.

My hope is that companies and consumers follow the blueprint academia is providing with GUPS for free calling from traditional phones and PCs via the Internet. This will help eliminate the outdated pricing structure of the legacy phone system. Its heritage in government control and regulation means it has little correlation with the actual costs and is acting as an impediment to communication and thus growth. I encourage you to support GUPS by using VOIP software like Gizmo Project to make your calls!

-- Michael
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