West Virginia preps bid for telecom future
- By Dibya Sarkar
- May 31, 2001
West Virginia's state government has begun to explore ways to upgrade its
statewide network to handle the anticipated increase in voice, data and
video traffic, as well as support the upcoming wave of e-government services.
Chief Information Officer Keith Comstock called the current fiber-optic
network, which is based on Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) technology,
"outstanding" and added that state agencies, courts and public school education
systems are sharing the same network. But "when you do long-range planning
and you look at our requirements for data, [it's] growing at an exponential
rate. Our network is not growing at the same curve," said Comstock, who
heads the Governor's Office of Technology (www.wvgot.org). "What we feel
is if we don't make this move...we're basically going to reach a bottleneck
at some point."
State officials hope a new network that uses Internet Protocol will
facilitate better e-government. The state recently unveiled an e-government
report outlining plans for more online services through an integrated portal.
"If we're really going to do e-government and put all our services online...we've
got to build the electronic roads to get them to it," he said.
West Virginia has issued a request for information from telecommunications
vendors for a network that could include wireless and satellite solutions.
Responses are due by June 20. Also next month, the GOT is planning to hold
an informational hearing on the plan at the Charleston Civic Center as well
as several more meetings with vendors throughout the summer.
Comstock said he fully expected several companies — including Verizon,
which is the main telecommunications provider in the state — to band together
and bid on an eventual proposal. He also expected the contract to be worth
hundreds of millions of dollars although he said he's not sure about the
The state would give up managing the network because it's not something
the state should be doing anyway, said Comstock. State government, which
has 35,000 employees, would be the anchor tenant of the new network, which
would be extended to all municipal governments and other public-sector organizations
at rates negotiated by the state, he said.
The state plans to issue a draft request for proposals for comment and
then an actual RFP by fall. A contract could be awarded as early as January,
but probably by next summer, Comstock said.