PROBLEM/SITUATION: Nonlocalized traffic and
shrinking IP address pools are clogging the Internet.
SOLUTION: Nashville and the private sector have joined forces to regionally segment the Internet.
JURISDICTION: Nashville and Davidson County, Tenn.
VENDORS: Bell South, Data General.
CONTACT: Mark Lynam, information systems division manager, 615/862-6300.
The Internet is slowing down. Rapid growth has increased congestion and shrunk the number of available IP addresses for new users. The Internet -- once primarily a text-oriented transport medium -- is now carrying graphics, video and audio traffic, which extracts its toll in bandwidth and contributes to the slowdown.
Another problem is the indeterminate nature of Internet routing, which often requires many router "hops" before the data arrives at
its destination. For example, e-mail between two users in the same building in Mobile, Ala., might be routed through Seattle and Buffalo. As the Internet continues to grow, this type of nonlocalized traffic will further degrade network performance.
Part of the solution may be to segment portions of the Internet through regional routing. Regional routing provides a container for local traffic -- improving file transfers between local users -- and improves overall network performance. When the Metropolitan Government of Nashville planned its network, regional routing was selected as a strategy. Gus Alfaqih, information systems director and CIO for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville said, "You can't have a flat network and expect it to be efficient."
Under the stewardship of Mayor Phillip Breseden, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County established CityNet in 1994. CityNet is neither a government project nor a free network. Free-market economics and competition are the driving forces behind it. For as little as $10 per month a user can have a high-quality, dial-up account.
Several objectives were kept clearly in mind during the design phase. Low-cost, ease of use, and a solid design were key points of the project. By using standard Internet protocols and access methods, CityNet was able to blend seamlessly with the Internet. CityNet was designed to serve as a model for other communities attempting to implement their own networks.
The first phase of CityNet was constructing the basic network and building a consortium of people to manage the direction of the project. Members of this group came from both the public and private sectors. The combined efforts of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the educational community and the Metropolitan Government working together made the project a success. ISPs continually work together and pool their talents to solve problems when they arise. Alfaqih noted, "The real genius behind it was the synergy that was created to bring these people together and work out all the problems." This concentration of effort has avoided many of the problems that have plagued similar projects in the past.
Using regional networking as a means to alleviate growth-induced problems in larger networks confines Nashville's networking tempest within its own teapot. Routing technology confines local traffic to the citywide network. By avoiding the main Internet, local traffic is not exposed to the rush-hour congestion and slowdowns that occur there. The router also blocks all Internet traffic not specifically addressed to a CityNet user. The result is less extraneous traffic on both CityNet and the Internet.
There is a continuing effort to install new servers to provide online information that wasn't previously available. These infrastructure improvements provide the support for information kiosks and terminals in public locations. Through CityNet, educational opportunities that did not previously exist are now becoming available to the public.
Initially, the management consortium was filled by appointments and voted-in seats. Future panel members will be installed from a voting process. With the first phase nearly complete, it is now time for Metro Government to step back from