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First NLC teleconference links three locations.

Local government leaders at three locations around the nation launched the first production of the Municipal Government Teleconference Network with a three way teleconference focused on discussion of the shocking events in Los Angeles following the Rodney King beating trial verdict.

A simultaneous, interactive videoteleconference network set up by the National League of Cities, the Municipal Government Teleconference Network will bring local government officials in seven states together for training, briefings and other live discussions on a regular basis. The system also has the capacity to link all 49 state municipal leagues in the future.

The Municipal Government Teleconference Network [MGTN] will links the NLC headquarters in Washington with conference centers operated by state municipal leagues in California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Texas.

The inaugural program which dealt with the destructive events in Los Angeles, featured Hood in Florida, Councilmember Carolyn Long Banks in Atlanta and NLC Executive Director Don Borut, syndicated columnist Neal Peirce, and NLC Director of Policy and Federal Relations Frank Shafroth in Washington. Hood also invited a leader of Orlando's religious community, the Rev. Roderick Zak of Carter Tabernacle CME Church, to participate in the discussion.

NLC President Glenda Hood put the new system into operation last week while speaking on camera from Orlando, Fla., to guests at the NLC offices in Washington.

"This is a tool that breaks through two of the toughest barriers -- time and money -- that hinder the ability of local government leaders to learn about solutions to problems facing their communities," said Hood. "We are delighted to bring it into use today."

NLC's conference room was filled with leaders of various Washington-based public interest groups, along with government and media reporters, as leaders of NLC and its partners in the videoteleconference project demonstrated the new system.

The MGTN project utilizes equipment, network and system support provided by Plexus Communications Corporation of Arlington, Va., and Bell Atlantic Systems Integration Corporation of Roslyn, Va., both leaders in telecommunications technology and applications.

The MGTN system will go into full operation with a line-up of more than a dozen conferences and briefings scheduled to begin in early June.

The network will use an initial four-month test period to examine how video teleconferencing can help NLC establish a timely and effective communications link with the state municipal leagues as well as individual cities. Opportunities to expand the system to other state leagues and individual cities will also be evaluated.

The state league videoconference centers are located in Monrovia, Calif., Orlando, Fla., Atlanta, Ga., Ann Arbor, Mich., St. Paul, Minn., Raleigh, N.C., and Austin, Tex.

By conducting sessions simultaneously in locations closer to people's homes and offices, the time and costs that often deter local officials from attending meetings will be greatly reduced, Borut said. Teleconferencing also enables many more people to be brought together when important information needs to be explained and discussed on short notice.

"Because of the technological and economic breakthroughs in video teleconferencing, a system that would be impossible to afford a few years ago is now available to help local officials do their jobs better," said Borut. "A capability that offers tremendous communications outreach has moved from the high cost world of studios and satellite facilities to a meeting room with a phone line."

Ronald M. Jones, president of Plexus, described the system as "an electronic leap forward" for local government.

"The utilization of this communications technology will dramatically enhance the ability of public interest groups, and other organizations, to provide timely information to their members and constituents. Its cost-effectiveness also is unparalleled," Jones said.

Steven Tafaro, executive vice president of Bell Atlantic Systems Integration, also spoke enthusiastically about the project.

"Advanced telecommunications technologies such as we have installed here will transform the way local government officials can work together collaboratively to improve the quality of life for their constituents," Tafaro said. "We also foresee great interest in this initiative on the part of educators nationwide."

"Throughout this initial period of videoteleconferencing, our mission is to enable municipal leaders in each network region to see, hear and actively participate in these live discussions and training sessions," said Borut.

The NLC system will connect people in the new network for real-time, live, face-to-face interactive sessions. It will enable participants to communicate and exchange information through voice, data, text or video technologies.

Unlike some videoconferencing systems that rely on costly satellite transmissions, the system created for NLC by Plexus and Bell Atlantic Systems Integration will utilize a network of fully dedicated telephone transmission lines operated by ConferLink, a Plexus subsidiary. Bell Atlantic Systems Integration will provide the network teleconference equipment, system design and the implementation including project management and support services.

Using technology based on personal computer systems, the NLC network has a capacity for extensive growth and an unlimited range of applications. It will utilize state-of-the-art MultiMax and MediaConferencing equipment by VideoTelecom, which can combine video, audio, document, computer conferencing and video "E-mail" into one integrated system.
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities
Author:Arndt, Randy
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:May 18, 1992
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