clouds in Alaska (MH Anderson Photography/


Cord-cutting for the enterprise

With many of its 2,400 connected sites and offices in the United States and its territories situated in remote locations such as the bottom of the Grand Canyon or in Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve, the Interior Department was struggling to maintain connectivity through traditional methods or services.

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TDM, DSL and satellite weren’t cutting it, but “we didn’t really have a lot of options,” said John Holmes, enterprise service network operation manager at Interior. Then he and his team found one: a managed broadband network based on satellite technology.

“Now we can get any service that’s available, not just satellite,” Holmes said. “In a lot of places, we can get the equivalent of [Verizon] FiOS service or fiber-optic service. We can get 4G and LTE service. Satellite is obviously an option.”

What’s more, Level 3 Communications and Hughes Network Systems, which provided the technology, handle all the aggregation and create a secure enclave that they bring back into the department’s network.

“It’s never in the wild, and we never have to worry about being compromised,” Holmes said. “It’s a security wrapper around basically an open-source network.”

Now remote Interior offices can do things they couldn’t before, such as distance learning and live feeds. Plus, the department is saving money — a lot of it. For a typical fiber connection, it was paying upwards of $1,100 per month. Now it costs $261.23. Also, the department can deal with local providers rather than just the big carriers. Holmes said smaller companies tend to have lower upfront costs, making installation cheaper.

“Demands for bandwidth are growing,” said Tony Bardo, assistant vice president for government solutions at Hughes. “They’re never going to shrink — never. The budgets are what they are. How do you solve that problem? You have to go off the grid…technologically from what has been traditionally offered to the federal agencies and do what John’s done.”

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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