Agencies like anywhere, anytime access

Three years ago, the U.S. Postal Service examined its options for supporting authorization of customer credit card applications at 12,000 branch offices.

The agency ran landlines to 7,000 locations, but determined the Integrated Services Digital Network services either were not available or too expensive to deploy at the remaining 5,000 sites. Because some of the sites were in remote locations, satellite was the only option, said Warren Schwartz, acting manager of wireless solutions at the Postal Service's Raleigh, N.C., office.

The satellite network worked so well that the agency decided to use satellite links as its primary backup system at the original 7,000 sites.

Satellite's all-encompassing nature also appealed to officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which

coordinates the government's response to natural or man-made disasters, such as tornadoes and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We have to set up our base quickly and do not have the time to wait for a telecommunications carrier to run the wiring needed with a terrestrial network," said Ron Miller, the agency's chief information officer.

Agency representatives

arrive at a disaster site with a series of specially equipped

vehicles, which include very small-aperture terminals from the Radio Amateur Satellite Corp. and satellite services from AT&T for quick uplinks. "We are usually able to get a site online less than 24 hours after we arrive," Miller said.

Agencies may be able to

install a satellite connection quickly, but they must still contend with deployment issues.

"You have to make sure that you have a clear line of sight for the transmission," Schwartz said. "We've had a few instances where another company planted trees that blocked our sight line, so we've had to move our dish or convince them to move their trees. Luckily, the folks we've dealt with have been accommodating."

More federal agencies may be forced to play the role of landscaper. "We have seen a huge spike in inquiries about our services since the events on Sept. 11, and a lot of calls have come from firms in the New York area," said Jeremy Guralnick, senior vice president of strategic marketing at Tachyon Inc., a San Diego-based satellite network provider.

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