Government moves to next phase in building private Net

Although the U.S. government’s plan to build its own private Internet – safe from hackers, viruses and the public at-large – has drawn ire from some critics who wonder what’s wrong with what we’ve got, the government said Wednesday that it has received a strong response from its request for information (RFI) and is moving to the next phase.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) issued the information request to the telecommunication industry last month on how best to build “GovNet” on behalf of the special advisor to the president for cyberspace security, a post created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

The government wants to build its own “corporate Internet,” or air-gapped network, so that federal agencies could share sensitive information via a private network that would be secure from outside attacks. In presenting the idea, the government expressed particular concern about the recent increase in virus, worm and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

The deadline for the RFI passed last week and the government said that it had received 167 responses from companies. The GSA will now organize a team comprised of representatives from 16 federal agencies to evaluate the submissions and will report back to the White House by February.

“This is a very strong industry response, and we really appreciate all of the time and effort that went into generating the many comprehensive submissions,” John Johnson, the GSA’s federal technology service assistant commissioner for service development said in a statement.

Although the government is plowing ahead with its plan to build GovNet, the idea has rattled some groups that claim it is a statement on the government’s part that the current Internet isn’t secure – a damaging claim for the e-commerce industry.

Still others say that even a private network would not be completely unassailable from attack and that the creation of such a network with such an abundance of sensitive information could be a very tempting target to terrorists.

These criticisms aside, the government has stressed that the critical nature of the information the government manages requires extra security.

The GSA, located in Washington D.C., can be reached at