Missouri

St. Louis builds an MSAP

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 01/23/2006 - 08:02

For years, I've recommended that communities and regions build MSAPs (Multimedia Service Access Points). From our experiences operating one in Blacksburg as far back as 1999, we found that these local data exchange points save everyone in the community money. St. Louis is building a regional MSAP, which I call an RNAP, or Regional Network Access Point.

The Internet was originally designed to connect local networks that were generally far apart, so there was little need for local data exchange points. But as the Internet has grown, a lot of local traffic now gets carried across large parts of the country just to reach the other side of town. An MSAP reduces or eliminates that totally unnecessary and expensive transit route.

It's not expensive, especially if you already have a community or regional public colocation facility. Internet access providers and other large Internet users (e.g. local government, schools, colleges, hospitals) run a connection to the MSAP and adjust their network routing rules. Once you have at least two MSAP users, all traffic between those two networks stays local instead of being hauled, typically, to bigger cities and often to Washington, D.C. and/or San Francisco.

MSAPs not only save broadband costs, they improve network performance, often by an order of magnitude or more. This is particularly important for local, high performance services like file sharing, healthcare applications, and videoconferencing.

MSAPs work best when they are managed by a neutral third party, like a community broadband project.

Missouri "discovers" dark fiber

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/27/2005 - 08:55

GovTech has an article on Missouri's new CIO (Chief Information Officer), who was given the daunting task of improving state government IT services, in part by consolidating 16 separate IT fiefdoms. IT folks are notoriously resistant to service aggregation, because it usually means smaller staffs and smaller budgets. Some IT folks like big, complicated, hard to use systems because it justifies big IT staffs and budgets.

Dan Ross, the new CIO, has his work cut out for him. Statewide IT consolidation is fraught with its own problems. All the IT spending becomes concentrated in one place (usually the state capital), so it often cuts out small and medium-sized businesses as the contracts are rolled up into massive specifications that only big companies with large expense accounts can go after. And those big contracts often have hidden gotchas that end up being more expensive than several smaller contracts distributed among several agencies. And a big IT operation in the capital can become loaded with patronage jobs--you end up with underqualified people making unjustifiably large salaries, and that always ends up being expensive.

But the most interesting thing that has already emerged from Ross' short tenure is the discovery that the state highway department had fiber running up and down every interstate highway in the state. Can you say, "Statewide Voice over IP system?" If nothing else, the combination of a statewide fiber backbone for the government, combined with an overhaul of the existing phone contracts, should lead to some impressive savings.

But the story still begs one question. When did the highway department start putting in fiber, and why didn't they tell anyone about it? It boggles the mind. Were they saving it for something? If so, what exactly? It looks like the CIO of Missouri has already earned his pay.

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