SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced significant improvements to the State’s communications backbone – the Illinois Century Network – which results in more bandwidth, higher speeds and lower costs to nearly 8,000 schools, universities, libraries, law enforcement agencies and other institutions across the state. Altogether, these Illinois Century Network constituents provide Internet access and other services to more than two million Illinoisans. The changes, which include increases in baseline bandwidth allocation and a reduction in bandwidth purchase prices, will take place immediately.
“The internet is an essential tool for communicating and sharing information in this day and age. The Illinois Century Network enables public institutions like schools, libraries and police stations across the state to improve their communications and take advantage of the benefits of the worldwide web. And now, the Century Network's services will be even faster and more affordable,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
The Illinois Century Network – commonly known as the ICN – is the largest publicly owned voice and data network in the country, and has been an incredible state asset since the Network went live in 1999. Since its launch, the Network has helped to bridge the digital divide in Illinois as schools, hospitals and law enforcement agencies across Illinois have had access to greater long distance learning opportunities and better collaboration with partner entities.
The increased services and reduction in costs announced today stem from the Blagojevich administration’s successful efforts to upgrade the ICN, migrate State agencies to the upgraded backbone and aggressively renegotiate contracts. In its role of providing information technology and telecommunications services to the State of Illinois, the Department of Central Management Services (CMS) last year upgraded the ICN network to increase bandwidth to accommodate increased traffic and enable next-generation applications; it is these efforts that led the Computerworld Honors Program to present CMS with a Laureate Medal this past June.
“Our continued ICN improvements will encourage greater collaboration and innovation in the delivery of content among and between constituents, and increase the use of web-based resources both in research and in the classroom,” said CMS Director Paul Campbell. “For example, schools now can have better and more affordable access for their students so that online field trips, distance learning and other special projects become even more commonplace in the classroom.”
“We found that many constituents needed more bandwidth than what was previously provided, which impeded their ability to achieve greater connectivity and growth. Through our recent ICN efficiency initiatives, we’ve been able to both increase the baseline bandwidth and enhance our services, and but also lower prices for ICN services which will continue to heighten access,” Campbell said. “But even with this great progress, Gov. Blagojevich has directed us to improve the Network to make sure it is robust for the future in light of technological advances through the past decade.”
During the past several months, CMS has asked for and received feedback from constituents through focus groups and surveys conducted as part of the Illinois: The Next Century Network initiative. The goal of this initiative is to update the vision and enhance the strategic plan that will lead the State’s IT network into the future. The revised cost- recovery model incorporates this valuable constituent feedback.
For primary ICN constituents (those with less than 1,000 users), the minimum bandwidth allocation has been raised fivefold, from 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps) to 8 Mbps. Larger constituents will see their allocation increased by 33% to 50%, to as high as 45 Mbps. There is also an additional 3 Mbps incentive for organizations eligible for an E-rate (a federal program that helps offset IT costs for many schools and libraries).
And the cost to purchase bandwidth has decreased. The price to procure bandwidth is now $70 - $170 per Mbps, depending on the total amount purchased (down from the previous range of $200 - $250 per Mbps). Port charges and pricing for other services, such as content filtering and IP video, remain unchanged.
More detailed information about the new prices and higher speeds is available on the web site www.illinois.net/cost recovery. Additional information is also available on the ICN web site at www.illinois.net.
CMS’ efforts to manage the ICN more efficiently are the result of Gov. Blagojevich’s directive to ‘run the business of government like a business’, which has resulted in cost reductions and additional services as the agency better serves its partner entities. Over the past two years, CMS has taken a number of additional actions in the IT arena – eliminated thousands of unused phone lines, renegotiated cell-phone rates and outside contractors’ rates, reduced headcount and bought in greater bulk – which have saved more than $210 million, as validated by Deloitte Consulting.