A fast Internet connection for all

Federal offices that rely on separate phone lines for voice and Internet — or a single line that requires them to use one service at a time — will

get improved access at a faster speed under a proposal from the General

Services Administration's Federal Technology Service.

Officials also will be able to order Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) technology

via the Internet, according to the FTS official who spurred the drive to

beef up access.

DSL technology runs between the end user's location and the telephone switching

station, not between switching stations. Although DSL runs over the existing

copper lines that agencies now rely on, it will give users faster transmission


DSL basically turns a single telephone line into two lines, with frequencies

below 4 KHz reserved for voice and frequencies above that reserved for data.

This enables users to access the Internet and transmit data even while they

use the telephone for voice communications.

BellSouth, a provider of DSL, says users may access the Internet 30

to 100 times faster via DSL.

William Horst, assistant regional administrator for FTS' New England

office, envisions a World Wide Web portal where federal customers from Honolulu to

Bangor, Maine, can order DSL with the click of a mouse. "To me, that's what

will make this thing work," he said.

FTS, which packages contracts for the acquisition of telecommunications

equipment and services for federal agencies, is soliciting contract bids

to upgrade existing copper phone lines using DSL technology.

Horst's office originated the idea and then passed it on to the agency's

regional office in San Francisco, which has a larger staff and more experience

in contracting, Horst said.

The California office will hammer out the contracts for purchasing DSL equipment

and services and then turn them back to the New England division for administration,

Horst said.

Eventually, agencies will be able to order DSL via a Web

portal set up by the New England office, according to Horst.

The upgrade will give officials using old telephone wire systems high-speed

Internet access and enable them to remain online without sacrificing voice

telephone service.

"This could be the answer for some of those [remote] offices," Horst

said. "This could, in the long run, put them in the same level as their

counterparts in the high risers, give them access at the same high speeds.

"The focus is to let all federal employees have the same access to the


GSA announced the contract last month and began taking solicitations

Aug. 1.

Under the plan, the existing copper lines that link government user

locations to telephone switching networks will be modified to enable packed

data to travel over the lines.

While existing copper lines typically afford users a transmission speed

of about 52 kilobits/sec, DSL provides a wide range of speeds. BellSouth

offers speeds ranging from 768 kilobits/sec downstream and 512 kilobits/sec

upstream to a combination of 4 megabits/sec to 6 megabits/sec downstream

and 640 megabits/sec upstream.

"One of the greatest and most recognized benefits is the additional speed

and access," said Bill Getch, a spokesman for BellSouth. "For example, if

you're going to download a 3.75M video clip — you may have a regular dial-up

speed on your computer of about 28.8 [kilobits/sec] — it'll probably take

you about 17 or 18 minutes to download. With DSL, it will take about 20



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