Sure, you might be paying your cable company for premium internet performance, but you don't know speed. Research scientists who have access to the Department of Energy's ESnet (or Energy Sciences Network for those in the know) sure do, though. You see, ESnet is capable handling data transfers at a staggering 91 gigabits per second over some seriously long distances -- think between Denver and Maryland, and that's without a direct connection between the two. That's more than nine times faster than what Google hopes to deliver with Google Fiber, and (sigh) over nine thousand times faster than the US' average broadband internet speed as of late 2013. And that's just the start. ESnet director Gregory Bell told that a 400 gigabit network is in the works, and the organization ultimate hopes to fire up a terabyte-per-second network... someday.
That's not to say that all those academic types are downloading movies faster than they can blink -- getting disk-to-disk transfer speeds that high required a specific setup of off-the-shelf parts and management to keep potential data bottlenecks at bay. What it does mean, though, is that it's more possible than ever to share gobs and gobs of scientific data without having to shell out pricey, highly specialized lines and equipment. Given the state of internet providers here in the States, it'll be ages before we get speeds even remotely close to what ESnet can deliver in our homes. Still, the rising tide of internet infrastucture lifts all ships, and Wired's Klint Finley points out that some ISPs are bulking up their networks to better serve us all.