Interior edges closer to voice over IP
- By Aliya Sternstein
- May 06, 2005
The Interior Department has had the most problems of any Cabinet department lately when it comes to staying online, but that hasn't stopped Interior officials from moving ahead with communications based on IP technology.
In the latest example of the federal government's growing use of voice over IP, Interior officials expect that the department's first major installation of a hybrid voice-over IP telephone system in the Washington, D.C.-area will be completed this weekend. Technicians are scheduled to finish connecting voice-over-IP-enabled systems in the Interior's main campus building, which has offices for 3,000 employees. If all goes as planned, the south campus building will get voice over IP in June, followed by the Bureau of Land Management -- periodically isolated from the Internet by court orders in recent years -- in July.
The overhaul will entirely scrap the previous infrastructure and the old phones, some of which were 15 years old. It includes a voicemail upgrade, with caller ID, more mailbox space and text messaging. Employees will also have indicators on their phones to alert them of new messages, said Matthew Stewart, chief of technology at Interior’s National Business Center. Under the old system, people who didn't exit the system properly after checking messages would not get voice mail for the rest of the day, Stewart said.
He estimated that voice-over-IP systems will reduce Interior’s costs for voice services by 30 percent to 35 percent. For example, the new system will eventually eliminate long-distance charges to the business center's office in Denver, Stewart said.
A contract valued at $4.7 million over 10 years awarded to Fortran-Compel, covers equipment, installation and maintenance for headquarters and offices in the Washington, D.C.-area. The deal calls for a hybrid integrated digital voice communication system that runs digital and limited voice over IP to service 12,500 employees. Interior's headquarters will migrate to full voice over IP within the year, Stewart said, adding that individual business cases will dictate the technology's rollout to each office around the country.
"It might not make sense to deploy it to outlying areas, like the Cadastral Survey in Minnesota with two people," Stewart said.
Interior officials chose a system that will not rely on the Internet or access the Internet. An ongoing lawsuit involving Indian Trust records at the Bureau of Land Management has resulted in multiple orders to keep BLM off the Internet in the past and last month, agency officials shut down the bureau's Web site after Interior's inspector general warned that BLM's systems are vulnerable to cyberthreats.
All of Interior's voice-over-IP phones will operate on a separate local area network with no remote access. When full voice over IP arrives, the voice and data LANs will be separated by firewalls, as well as physical ones. Security will be strict, even in the local environment, officials said.
"Remote maintenance is not allowed on the voice system," said Mikki Smith, a former security officer for the National Business Center and now a department-level cybersecurity officer. "As far as locally hacking, they would have to defeat all the physical security in place."