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Technology collaboration saves money, improves efficiency.

The city of Austin was just one of the many cities, responding to the 1995 Fiscal Conditions Survey, to report substantial savings initiatives. The following text was taken from the executive summary explaining the Greater Austin Area Telecommunications Network (GAATN). The system is expected to cost about $15,000,000, but will save the city of Austin alone $14,000,000, as reported in Austin's response to the NLC Fiscal Survey. The partnership, as NLC found over and over again in the, survey, supports the potential of interlocal government agreements in saving money and time and in increasing productivity and efficiencyrin service delivery.

What Is It?

The Greater Austin Area Telecommunications Network (GAATN) is a high-speed, wide-area network connecting over 300 governmental and educational sites in Austin, Tex. To be constructed of multiple strands of fiber optic cable, the network will utilize a ring topology composed of over 280 miles of singe mode fiber. GAATN will provide the foundation for the seven participants' electronic telecommunications well into the twenty-first century. The participants are the city of Austin, Austin Independent School District, Austin Community College, Lower Colorado River Authority, Travis County, State of Texas General Services Commission, and The University of Texas at Austin.

This high-speed fiber optic network will do for the flow of information what modern transportation systems did for the flow of goods -- dramatically improve public services. These improvements will be an important stimulus for economic development in Austin because so much of the success of business depends upon the efficient and effective delivery of services by government and educational institutions.

The network can be expanded to include additional GAATN participant sites. The network design of two super-rings and eight sub-rings ensures that the system will remain operational despite potential disasters such as cable cuts which can put existing leased networks out of service for days or weeks.

Why It Is Needed?

Communication networks have to accommodate more and more users and applications, and handle the rapidly increasing complexity of information. Existing networks usually transmit the equivalent of a few to several hundred typewritten pages per second. What is needed is a super highway to accommodate existing and future traffic, a network capable of transmitting information at rates equivalent to 100,000 typewritten pages (roughly six four-drawer file cabinets) per second.

In this age of spiraling taxes, any effort to save the public's money is welcomed. Linking together participant's digital telephones throughout the metropolitan area through a large, centrally located PBX switch owned by a participant will save taxpayer money by e individual telephone lines into each budding. At the same time, this technology will provide four digital dialing schemes to include voice mail and other conveniences that enhance governmental/educational employees' efficiency and productivity.

Many students throughout Austin, according to GAATN's executive summary, find it difficult or impossible to take high school and college courses they want or need because the classes are not offered on their campuses and they cannot travel across town. Multi-site continual presence distance learning will be accommodated on this network, offering the needed classes. Video meetings will be held among participants, eliminating the need to always travel for face-to-face gatherings.

What Will GAATN Do?

The GAATN will allow the delivery of data, text, voice and video information across the entire metropolitan area to support services which are currently impossible or impractical.

* Images, such as X-rays or photographs could be viewed by a doctor regardless of where taken or stored.

* Distance learning courses could originate from Austin Community College, Austin Independent School District, The University of Texas or Education Services Center Region XIII. College and high school classrooms, community centers and staff offices could interact fully with a teacher located at another site.

* Databases common to participating agencies could be shared to reduce redundant information, share common client information, eliminate errors and identify fraud. Citizens could access information and receive services without having to travel to the specific site where the information is located. Information kiosks could be established at libraries and other public facilities.

* Books, videos and music published in electronic format and stored in repositories, such as the libraries of the GAATN participants, could be accessed by citizens. Many customers could access the same digitally stored item concurrently; hence, resources would never be unavailable.

* Police officers would be able to interview and identify suspects at sites throughout the city without incurring the delay of going to a central location. GAATN will be connected to other local, state and national networks.

* ACC and AISD will provide their own telephone service among their sites. The savings will increase as more staff is added and new voice services are offered.

* It will reduce development and operating costs by allowing shared access to a central storage of data (in hundreds of gigabytes).

* Students and staff can access information instantly from various electronic resources and communicate with students throughout Austin, the nation and even the globe.

* GAATN members will use the fiber network to tie together individual campus and building LANs into a single high-speed network.
COPYRIGHT 1995 National League of Cities
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Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Report: NLC Releases 1995 Fiscal Conditions Report; reprinted from a report on the Greater Austin Area Telecommunications Network
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jul 10, 1995
Previous Article:Reports of growth by cities reflects improved policies and long-term planning.
Next Article:City initiatives help close the gap between spending and revenues.

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