Contributed By

RYeldell

Regan Yeldell

Director, Vertical Marketing at Comcast Business

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For Government Agencies, Network Reach Means More Fiber and More Bandwidth to More Places

March 02, 2016

Government agencies are going where they have never gone before, and first-class networks with a broad reach are getting them there.

Government agencies are going where they have never gone before, and first-class networks with a broad reach are getting them there. Police cruisers, for example, are equipped with automatic license plate readers and video recording equipment. There are smart city management systems with traffic control, smart lighting and traffic cameras. And there are a growing number of government buildings with cloud-based controls for heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

In addition to enhancing productivity, enabling better citizen focus and fostering innovation, these applications share one thing—they require reliable, pervasive network connectivity, regardless of geographic location. Without the network infrastructure to back up these advances—not to mention future applications and services that will need the same network reliability and reach—these services simply can’t reach their full potential.

Fiber Capabilities

Fiber is the support behind high-performance networks. Without fiber, networks don’t have the ability to ratchet up bandwidth to 100 Gbps to meet the needs of government agencies, departments, and constituents. Older copper-based networks rely on frame relay, T1 and other low-bandwidth, TDM-based technologies. That makes it difficult and expensive for agencies to add additional capacity, especially outside of the immediate geographical area in which the network is concentrated.

Fiber-optics have a low bit error rate, avoiding transmission errors that can interrupt or degrade performance. Fiber networks are scalable and allow for easy and fast provisioning of network services. Finally, the data that passes through fiber networks is secure, because fiber optics don’t radiate RF signals, and because fiber networks can take advantage of remote monitoring and troubleshooting technology. All of this allows government agencies to adapt to changing needs and requirements, such as digital government services, new locations, and new initiatives that involve new geographic areas.

When considering an Ethernet-over-fiber network for your government entity, look for a service provider that owns and manage its networks and its technology from end to end. If not, the network actually could be partly newer Ethernet-over-fiber and part legacy copper technologies, which will inhibit scalability and bandwidth.

Bandwidth for the Network

Fiber is the foundation of a massively scalable network, enabling government agencies to adapt easily to evolving objectives. For example, if a government agency opens new offices around the state, knowing that the bandwidth is more than enough to power those extra locations means that they don’t have to worry about changing providers or interrupting service.

A highly scalable, large-capacity native Ethernet network provides the ability for each location to receive the same level of performance, regardless of location.

Bandwidth that is scalable today also allows organizations to take advantage of the latest bandwidth-intensive trends and technologies. In government, that might be may be telework, which requires reliable bandwidth all the way to the home, or a service like an emissions inspection station or fire department in a rural area.

Reaching Users, Wherever They Are

By choosing a network provider with a very large footprint in both residential and business locations, government agencies can be sure that their networks can accommodate new locations that may be added over time. While high-capacity, wholly-owned, fiber Ethernet networks have that reach, older networks built by the local exchange carriers typically use fiber only in central business districts, making it difficult and expensive to extend the same type of service outside city limits. The “ring” these carriers have constructed also makes it difficult to add additional capacity as needs changed without causing slowdowns and bottlenecks.

In some cases, adding more capacity to an older network would mean adding another service provider to the mix. This type of hybrid network can mean more time to diagnose and fix problems.

Choosing a network with the broadest reach possible also helps agencies deal with the inevitability of so-called shadow IT—IT projects and technology developed and managed outside of, and often without the knowledge of, an agency’s IT department. According to Gartner, government CIOs can expect to see as much as a 20 percent increase in the procurement of IT and implementation of technology solutions outside of the IT organization.

With the rise of shadow IT, it’s even harder to predict how much bandwidth an organization will actually need, and what locations will require high bandwidth allocations. If there isn’t enough bandwidth to handle the increased demands on the network, the agency and citizen experience will be much less than optimal. Since shadow IT isn’t going away any time soon, it makes sense to increase bandwidth to more places. In other words, plan for the unexpected.

What’s Possible:

With an extensive network reach, government agencies have the resources to get advanced applications and services. In the research and education world, for example, high-speed network connections with an extensive reach can make the difference between success and failure. If, for example, a lab needs to test an application that will require massive computing power for six months. With an all-fiber-over-Ethernet network, the lab can request and quickly receive the additional capacity for six months and then reduce it back down. The project’s researchers also are likely working with other facilities in other areas to transmit test results or access information. With a high-performance, geographically extensive network, data can be shared between a dispersed team of researchers easily and quickly.

There are numerous other examples. The increase in telework, for example, requires reliable, fast connections from residential neighborhoods as well as office buildings. Without the same level of connectivity, bandwidth and speed as a worker would receive at the office, productivity and morale suffers.

In the city of Hollywood, Fla., frustration with slow bandwidth from its existing T1-based communication system and the desire to support local government initiatives prompted a move to expand its network. With its existing system, city workers didn’t have the quick and reliable access to the applications they needed to do their jobs, and the system didn’t have the capacity to handle increasing data traffic and the growing use of bandwidth-intensive technologies like streaming video.

The city has since created the network reach it was looking for. Today, the network connects 30 locations such as police stations, fire departments, the public safety department, city hall and the community recreation center, all of which can exchange data and video at up to 1 Gbps. It has allowed the fire marshal, for example, to create training videos and send them to each fire station. In addition, the city also has a dedicated ethernet, which allows city employees to access WebEx meetings or online demos for in-house training.

Conclusion

As organizations change and grow, they must be able to count on a reliable, scalable, far-reaching network to support those changes. With the network no longer a concern, decision-makers can get on with the business at hand—to help make services as responsive, productive and effective as possible.

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