A fast Internet connection for all
- By Bryant Jordan
- Aug 07, 2000
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,
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
"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
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