Integrate Telecommunications Networks Among State Agencies and Universities
The state should integrate telecommunications networks among state agencies and universities to achieve cost savings.


Background
The State of Texas spent almost $100 million in fiscal 1992 to provide communications equipment and services to state agencies. 1 These expenditures were for equipment, management and services to supply the state with voice, data, facsimile and video communications. Approximately a third of this amount was on the Statewide Telecommunications Network (TEX-AN II) and the Capitol Compl ex Telephone System, which provide local and intrastate long-distance services to state agencies. Monthly charges account for almost 21 percent of telecommunications expenditures, with interstate long-distance charges making up 11.2 percent.

The state operates two centralized statewide telecommunications networks TEX-AN II and the Texas Higher Education Network (THEnet). A third network, the Texas State Lottery Telecommunications (TSLT) network, is operated by GTECH Corporation, the lottery operator, to provide communications to the state s 17,000 lottery vendors.

The General Services Commission (GSC) administers the contract w ith AT&T for TEX-AN II. The Telecommunications Planning Group, consisting of the Comptroller of Public Accounts, GSC and the Department of Information Resources, with consulting help from IBM, is developing a comprehensive plan to deliver voice, video and computer communications to state agencies. This group s efforts will be incorporated into TEX-AN III, which will supersede TEX-AN II beginning September 1, 1993.

THEnet was organized in 1987 when 23 state universities joined with private universities and research organizations to create a high-speed data communications network among different computer systems. THEnet is headquartered at the University of Texas at Austin campus but is operated cooperatively by both the University of Texas System and the Tex as A&M University System. The Texas A&M University System Interactive Services Network is integrated with THEnet and expands coverage to university, experimental stations and extension service locations.

THEnet is also used by a number of non-university state agencies. These cooperative efforts include: the Texas Education Agency s (TEA) network (TENET), which links public schools and TEA, the Comptroller s Uniform Statewide Accounting System, the Automated Budget Monitoring and Submission project and the Employee Retirement System s insurance application system.

TSLT is a diverse communications network that offers technologies such as digital data voice multiplexing, analog local loops, UHF radio datalinks, satellite communications and video teleconferencing.

The diversity of the networks now serving and being developed by state agencies requires that a coordinated and cooperative effort be made by all governmental units to ensure that the needs of the citizens of the state are satisfied. Other states, includin g New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia, have developed backbone data networks to provide their state agencies with highly reliable, cost-saving communications systems. The Empire Net, the state of New York s massive backbone network, has run with near-perfect reliability and has saved state agencies $12 million in communications costs during its first year of full-capacity operation. 2 Massachusetts uses its network installed to handle lottery transactions to carry data for other state agencies.

As budgets continue to get tighter, the state should continue its efforts to: (1) lower annual communications costs; (2) increase communications reliability and (3) provide a framework for agencies to achieve the state s long-run migration to open systems standards. 3


Recommendations
A. Require state agencies to establish a connection with the Texas Higher Education Network (THEnet).

The most efficient way to implement a statewide open computer network is to use the existing university networks as a nucleus. As agency sites across the state connect to the network, the appropriate equipment, service and fiscal resources can be incremen tally provided to maintain the quality of service. By using THEnet to link public schools across the state, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) saved about $650,000.

B. Examine the advantages of transitioning from the multiple networks now in use to a single, hybrid, high-speed, high-capacity network.

Previous studies of the state s telecommunications infrastructure recommended that the state develop a hybrid (e.g., leased and purchased) network. 4 By linking the various network backbones to more fully use the capacity available, fewer data circuits would be needed, resulting in lower costs. Development of t his type of network has already begun. By leveraging this effort, agencies would be assured that their communications needs are met and the transition to open standards are efficiently achieved. The existing networks of the Texas A&M University and the Uni versity of Texas Systems could provide the support through interagency contracts with agencies desiring to participate. In tandem with efforts to work with state agencies to support their network needs, planning would begin with the Telecommunications Plan ning Group to determine long-term strategies to provide service and capacity analysis.

C. The state should continue to explore ways to reduce local access charges.

In 1989, the General Services Commission (GSC) bypassed the local exchange carrier to connect a number of agencies located in north Austin to the University of Texas. GSC estimated that $80,000 in monthly local access charges were avoided. 5 Similar opportunities for bypassing the local exchange carrier exist in major metropolitan areas of the state. The Telecommunications Planning Group, along with the University of Texas, should explore where similar bypass opportunities are available and the cost-benefit of undertaking these projects.


Implications
By coordinating telecommunications planning among state agencies, better use of state resources could be achieved. This would help agencies satisfy the state s goal to achieve an open systems standard.


Fiscal Impact
Insufficient data exist to estimate the amount of cost savings that would result from adopting these recommendations.



Endnotes
1 Comptroller of Public Accounts, 1992 Texas Annual Cash Report (Austin, Texas, 1992).
2 N.Y. State Backbone Net Gets High Grades, Communications Week (December 7, 1992), p. 1.
3 Department of Information Resources, State Strategic Plan for Information Resources Management (Austin, Texas, November 1990).
4 BNR, A Study to Assist THE STATE OF TEXAS In Defining An Evolution Plan For The STATE TELECOMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM (Mountain View, California, January 1983); and Arthur Andersen & Co., Analysis and Audit of Bell Northern Research, Inc. Telecommunications Report (Austin, Texas, February 1983).
5 Interview with Bruce Schremp, Telecommunications Division, General Services Commission, Austin, Texas, May 30, 1991.