Standard Intelligence

U.S. Rep. James Moran, D-Va., introduced a bill in February that would promulgate guidelines and set requirements for states to modernize drivers' licenses and the information systems behind them.

Moran sees states playing a key role in this effort.

"States have to issue [drivers' licenses]; states have to determine whether they want compatible drivers' licenses with other states; [and] states have to determine the extent to which they want to use this interoperability and compatible information," Moran said.

Moran said the goal of the bill is not to create a national ID card, but to make sure that when a person applies for a driver's license, the chances for fraud are eliminated.

"I want digital signatures and biometric information on the state ID cards," he said, adding that thumbprints are the likely choice for biometric information. "We're going to try to make up to $100 million available [to states]."

He said his legislative staff will spend a lot of time with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the National Association of Counties, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Governors Association to solicit input.

Moran said he got interested in the issue when he learned that four of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks obtained fraudulent drivers' licenses in Virginia. Though he believes a verifiable form of identification is crucial to national security, he expressed concern over the public's misconception of the issue.

At press time, Moran said the bill's language was nearly complete, though he was waiting to line up additional co-sponsors before formally introducing it.

Government Unplugged

City officials in Menlo Park, Calif., were looking at fixed wireless only as a cost-effective backup to their T1 line, but wound up replacing their wired connection to the Net entirely.

"We've shifted our philosophy," said Danny Daniels, systems and programming manager of Menlo Park. "We're using fixed wireless as the primary connection and our T1 as a back up."

Daniels said the cost of fixed wireless, at around $500 a month, is much cheaper than a T1 line, and the initial set-up costs were comparable.

All city agencies and the city's approximately 300 employees now access the Net via fixed wireless, Daniels said. He cited ease of use and lack of maintenance as other important factors behind the city's decision to go with fixed wireless.

"There's really no premise equipment, so in terms of configuring routers and whatnot, all the setup is handled by the ISP," he said. "They provide you with the telco box, and you interface directly with that."

Another California city, Dublin, also chose fixed wireless for Internet access for approximately 150 city employees.

Installation took less than a day, said Steve Pappa, information systems manager of Dublin.

"We paid about 50 percent more, previously, for a connection that was at 64K," he said. "What we have now is a minimum of 1Mbps, burstable to 2Mbps; it's like night and day, and we're paying about $250 [per] month less."

The city is saving money because, unlike before, it isn't paying to lease a T1 line and paying for Internet access.

Dublin switched to fixed wireless in December, Pappa said.

"We were skeptical," he said. "We went with a month-to-month agreement. We made them get the building permit and go through all the planning approvals, and they did all that and complied. Everybody is happy with the system so far."

Both cities are contracting with NextWeb for fixed wireless Internet access.

Protecting the Police

The East Orange, N.J., Police Department is testing a new information-security system for desktop PCs