1st Contract for Statewide Telecommunications Network

Steve Schafer
Chief Information Officer, (402) 471-4385

Lt. Governor Heineman, Chair of the Nebraska Information Technology Commission, President Smith of the University of Nebraska, and Leo Perreault, Market Area President of Alltel for Nebraska, announced the first contract for creating a shared statewide telecommunications network that will serve K-12 education, higher education institutions, and governmental agencies, and other public entities. The contract with Alltel will aggregate telecommunications networks for the University, state agencies and other potential partners from Kearney to Grand Island, Lincoln, and Omaha.

Lt. Governor Heineman said, “Today represents a giant step forward for this project. This is Phase I of a multi-phase approach to creating a statewide system that will serve a wide range of existing and potential users.” The Lt. Governor cited several benefits of the new contract:

The State and University will save an initial combined $5,300 per month, compared to today’s costs;

The contract and technology provides for improved scalability, which means that we only pay for the bandwidth that we need, when we need it, in the increments we need;

Alltel will deploy a new technology (Multi Protocol Label Switching or MPLS) in Grand Island, Lincoln, and Omaha. MPLS provides redundancy, the ability to economically connect differing networks, as well as provide the scalability needed by network users;

MPLS will also support multiple protocols in a secure environment, which is essential to sharing bandwidth;

Using its contract with the state as financial anchor, Alltel plans to make MPLS technology available to any private or public entity in these communities, which will add to the benefits of this initiative.
Telecommunications networks are essential to supporting the functions relating to government, public safety, education, community development, and health care. Lt. Governor Heineman noted that “Telecommunications networks make it possible to obtain a driver’s license in any county, regardless of one’s county of residence. Law enforcement anywhere in the state has instant access to state and federal databases. High schools share scarce teaching resources

via distance education classes. The University can provide course offerings, research opportunities, and administrative systems to all of its campuses. Rural hospitals are able to increase their health care offerings via audio/video connections to larger medical centers.”

President Smith stated that, “Today’s announcement demonstrates the fact that dreams actually can come true — if enough people are willing to cooperate and work hard to make it happen. This agreement is the first step in launching a network that will be an enormous boon to education at all levels –allowing us to use state-of-the-art distance education protocols at every level, K-12, community colleges, state colleges and the university. Ultimately, it will allow students to access the courses or instructional modules they want from anywhere, anytime. And the big advantage is that we can do this in cooperation with state and local government agencies, reducing the costs for everyone.”

The RFP for Phase II of the statewide network has just been released, which will extend the network northward to Norfolk and westward to North Platte and the Panhandle