The US government is moving ahead to build a secure, separate internet network, dubbed GovNet, after receiving "significant industry support".
Government officials said that around 167 high-tech companies have submitted proposals for the network.
Companies including Hewlett-Packard and Symantec have confirmed they met the Request for Information (RFI) deadline last week. Cisco Systems, Oracle and Sun Microsystems had also expressed an interest in the program, according to the US General Services Administration (GSA), which could not confirm they submitted bids.
The RFI requested the industry propose other ways for the federal government to better secure certain critical classes of internal government communication from external attacks that are common on internet-connected systems. The network is intended to carry data, voice-over-IP and possibly video.
"This is a very strong industry response, and we really appreciate all the time and effort that went into generating the many comprehensive submissions," said John Johnson, GSA's federal technology service assistant commissioner for service development.
He said the GSA would thoroughly analyse all the responses and report back to the White House by February 2002.
Richard Clarke, special advisor to the President for cyberspace security, heads up the GovNet project. It will allow federal agencies to share sensitive information over a private network which would also be secure from outside attacks.
The GSA has organised an RFI evaluation team that includes representatives from 16 federal agencies. The Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon will do an independent evaluation of the RFI responses.
Clarke said based on the RFI responses, "we will determine the next steps." If the project were funded, the next step would be to solicit bids from industry.
Submissions include ideas for how to build GovNet, cost estimates and what internet protocols would be utilised.
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