Oklahoma telecom matures

Oklahoma is revamping its statewide telecommunications system to include more bandwidth and improved videoconferencing capabilities.

The state's OneNet system (www.onenet.net), a 9-year-old public/private partnership composed of telecommunications companies, equipment manufacturers, service providers and government agencies, was created through a joint venture between the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the Office of State Finance.

Originally created as a distance-learning tool, OneNet users, who are contractually bound to have an educational tie, have grown over the years to include people at libraries, courts, hospitals, rural health care delivery systems, research institutions, law enforcement agencies, and local, county, state and federal agencies throughout the state.

Such growth prompted officials to improve the system's videoconferencing capabilities, said Kurt Snodgrass, OneNet's director of marketing and communication,

"Our primary focus of this upgrade was to ensure that OneNet had the bandwidth necessary to sustain our growing client base," Snodgrass said. "The system had videoconferencing capabilities before, but we wanted to ensure that the network itself was not a limiter to its videoconferencing abilities."

The new and improved OneNet will include a PictureTel Corp. 970 collaboration system that's based on an architecture forged by Intel Corp. and PictureTel. It allows for video quality of 30 frames per second, audio clarity four times as clear as standard telephone service and has automatic tracking cameras.

OneNet officials hope the videoconferencing upgrades will help open the door for plans that include telemedicine and telejustice applications.

"It's somewhat of an interesting chicken-and-egg situation," Snodgrass said, "in that the need for OneNet's technology resulted in an increased client base. But an increased client base in turn results in a need for increased technology."

"Oklahoma is a rural state and agrarian by nature, with long distances often separating those who want to do business," said Bill Johnson, network operations manager for OneNet. "This new upgrade makes such business that much easier."

OneNet's highest volume of activity comes from education and research institutions, with all of the state's colleges and universities and about 80 percent of its K-12 schools hooked up to the network.

The total budget for the system is about $14.9 million, 80 percent of which comes from the system's 1,600 subscribers, who pay annual user fees. The remainder comes from nonprofit organizations, state and local government grants, tax dollars and corporate funding.

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