Maryland utility agency sets a fast pace with Web redesign

Maryland utility agency sets a fast pace with Web redesign

Commission's IT team puts services for companies and consumers online

BY DONNA YOUNG | GCN STAFF

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening last April signed a bill that requires all state agencies to make at least 50 percent of their services accessible on the Internet by January 2002. The state's Public Service Commission is way ahead of schedule.

PSC regulates public utilities and certain passenger transportation companies that do business in the state.

The agency launched a newly designed site, at www.psc.state.md.us, on Jan. 1.

Mars Wu, PSC information technology director, said the agency took an aggressive approach with its site and followed private-sector Web trends.

'We listened to the visionary people in the IT industry to get a sense of things,' Wu said. 'We can't always afford to do things the same way that the private sector does, but at least we can tell if we are being efficient. We take ideas from the private sector and fuse them in our Web site.'

The site provides utility and telecommunications companies with immediate access to formal case proceedings, license filings and their status, commission orders, and tariff and territory revisions.

In addition, the site offers consumers lists of gas, electric, telecommunications, and water and sewage rates; notices of rate changes; a utilities search engine; and utility service territory maps.


The PSC's Web design team is, from left,
IT director Mars Wu, programmer Ketu Patel and Web developer Simone Henry.
Complaints online

Consumers with complaints about transportation carriers can also complete complaint forms on the Web site.

Donald Eveleth, PSC assistant executive secretary, said the Web site has reduced the number of phone calls his agency receives.

'Utility providers and consumers can go right to the site and get the information they need in great detail,' he said. 'It saves our staff time in searching through documents and speeds up service to the public.'

Transportation companies regulated by the agency, including those that supply sedans, limousines and buses for hire, as well as taxi services operating in Baltimore County and the cities of Baltimore, Cumberland and Hagerstown, can schedule mandatory inspections online.

The utility commission used ColdFusion 4.0 from Allaire Corp. of Newton, Mass., to build the site. The Web site resides on a 600-MHz Pentium III Compaq ProLiant server with 512M of RAM.
'The site gives taxpayers access to government services in a more expeditious way,' Eveleth said.

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