Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Palo Alto and the Decision "To Net or Not to Net?" (Palo Alto, California; the Internet)(Special Report: The Information Highway: 'It Keeps Going and Going')

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Palo Alto and the Decision "To Net or Not to Net?" (Palo Alto, California; the Internet)(Special Report: The Information Highway: 'It Keeps Going and Going')

Article excerpt

Is your network ready?

That, says Dianah Neff, director of information resources for the city of Palo Alto, is the central question for local governments just venturing into the world of Internet.

Neff believes that local governments must consider serious issues before they implement an Internet system. To Neff, however, Internet's unlimited potential outweighs its burdens of policy and implementation. "The benefits are worth it," she says. "You just have to commit the resources--both people and money--to make it happen."

Technical requirements: In Neff's opinion, a jurisdiction needs a connection with a minimum ISDN speed of less than one-half of T-1 for full Internet capabilities (as opposed to email, which requires less speed). "T-1," she says, "is the best speed for a server on the Internet," noting that most service providers do not offer connections faster than T-1 for Internet purposes.

A fiber-optic link, rapid from the outset, offsets the inevitable roadblocks that slow data transmission along the information highway and ensures that data travels at T-1 capacity by the time it reaches the gateway, or service provider. "If you want full fiber-optic speed," Neff adds, "you need a transceiver that converts computer data into waves and transmits it across the fiber, and a router" that monitors signals across the connection to make sure that only appropriate information is broadcast.

And once a local government decides to enhance the information it provides on the Internet with graphics, it must consider those graphics' enormous memory demands. "Any time you deal with grpahics, you need a lot of memory," Neff cautions. "Does you equipment support that?"

And more technical requirements: Internet also requires special interface protocol (IP) addressing. IP addressing allows incompatible systems, such as Macintoshes and PCs to "talk" to each other. "It's the lowest common denominator between unlike systems," Neff said. "We got into networking in the 1980's, early on."

Palo Alto began with Class A addressing for local-area networking, moved to Class B addressing for wide-area networking, and is now using Class C addresses for Internet. Neff indicates that local governments changing addressing schemes for Internet purposes have two options: "You can go back and change all your addressing," a slow and arduous process, or "you can add a router, which is much more expensive. …

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