March 31, 2010 By Karen Wilkinson
Virginia is expanding broadband options for public agencies, with hopes of mending patchy Internet connections and better serving rural parts of the state.
The Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) announced this week the addition of 14 broadband service providers, which will be offered at "competitively priced" rates to state, county, city, town, school, library and other public agencies. The new options will include wireless, satellite, cable-modem and fiber services, the Virginia Governor's Office said. The state's main provider currently is Verizon.
"There was a growing demand for additional broadband services to meet government Internet access needs in Virginia," VITA Supply Chain Management Outreach Manager Sonia Hicks wrote in an e-mail. "Those needs range from supporting small, remote office locations to redundancy for primary Internet connections for universities."
VITA has developed an online search tool for broadband services and pricing using ZIP codes, which returns a list of available service contracts in the specified ZIP code.
"VITA has already experienced significant interest and expects a high volume of these contracts," Hicks wrote.
"Not every area of the commonwealth has high-speed broadband options available," said a press release announcing the new offerings. "As a result, while there are service options in all ZIP codes in the state, not all areas within a particular ZIP code may be covered or have access to all technology types."
In awarding the contracts, VITA looked at suppliers' price, bandwidth tier and technology in each ZIP code service area, Hicks wrote. "This approach resulted in the commonwealth obtaining the lowest price and providing service in every ZIP code in the state," she wrote.
Expanding broadband service was a goal of VITA's former chief George F. Coulter, who new Gov. Bob McDonnell recently replaced with Samuel A. Nixon Jr.
"This means state agencies and other public entities throughout the commonwealth can access contracts with established competitive rates without committing a significant amount of time to researching and selecting broadband service providers," Virginia Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey said in the release. "Given the current economic climate, the ability to streamline this process and generate cost savings by reducing monthly reoccurring service fees and upfront staff time is critical."
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.