This report evaluates Vermonts state-wide telecommunications network, its administration and the Internet access service it provides. These features and services are commonly referred to as "GOVnet." The 1996 Vermont Legislature, in its "Act Relating to Capital Appropriations and State Bonding" (ACT NO. 185 of the Acts of 1996), sought: an analysis of costs; alternatives to the current system; opportunities for collaboration with other networks; and a model for future evaluations of technology.
Some of the requirements of ACT NO. 185, as well as questions raised during research for this project, have exposed a variety of definitions and common misunderstandings of GOVnet. In order to correct prevailing misunderstandings, this report proposes to redefine the term "GOVnet" into three distinct entities: 1) the state employees who support and service wide-area telecommunications networks; 2) the state-wide telecommunications network that supports government operations; and 3) Internet access to K-12 schools and government agencies.
The significant findings with regard to each of the areas specified in ACT NO. 185 are:
A) Costs for 1993 through 1995 are estimates since there was no mechanism established in those years for collecting data on costs and revenues. Revenues and expenses for fiscal years 1996 and 1997 are separated into: administration, physical government network, and Internet related services. Overall expenses for FY1996 were $715,694.
Total cumulative capital costs attributable to GOVnet are $0. A one-time cost of $1,128,900 occurred in FY1993 as part of the implementation of the Human Resources Management System (HRMS).
B) The role of the existing group providing network administration services is not clearly established. Only after the role of the existing group is clearly established will the state be able to fully evaluate the costs, benefits and risks associated with private sector alternatives.
The physical state-wide telecommunications network consists of interconnecting, high speed telephone lines. The majority of this portion of the network is acquired through a combination of short and long term contracts from existing communication services.
Private sector alternatives and costs are evaluated for the public portion of the network. The public portion of the network includes equipment, Internet access and support services. There are several Internet Service Providers in Vermont which offer Internet access at costs comparable to those offered by the State to schools. The evaluation of private sector alternatives for a school or an organization should include other criteria in addition to cost, such as the availability and quality of support services.
C) Although there are technical overlaps among the networks, there are no significant, immediate opportunities for collaboration. Another study now underway is likely to address opportunities for collaboration in a comprehensive way ("Vermont Telecommunications Information Infrastructure Planning Process," administered by the Vermont Interactive Television Program Manager at Vermont Technical College).
D) A plan for organization and administration of the states network has the following elements:
1. The Legislature has spending authority with regard to technology.
2. The states chief information officer (CIO) coordinates technology planning and activities throughout the state.
3. An independent technical oversight committee should be established to insure that the implementation of the planned technologies will achieve the expected outcomes in a cost-effective manner.
This framework keeps financial controls with the Legislature, coordination and planning with the CIO and technological evaluation with technical experts.