I attended a broadband summit where the keynote speaker began with a question: "Who has enough bandwidth?" A few of the several hundred attendees sheepishly raised a hand, but many more started laughing or whispering to colleagues with an irritated look of disbelief. The fact is, most crave higher LAN and WAN speeds, and the public sector is no exception. Despite a steady drop in prices, public CIOs can't keep up with the growing demand from customers and their new, bandwidth-hungry applications.

From deploying VoIP to offering online training or other cloud-based solutions, Internet and intranet use is exploding. Oftentimes, government networks have fiber backbone connectivity with high-speed LANs for their central offices and headquarters, while regional or remote offices are connected with T1 (1.544 Mbps) or slower pipes. Worse yet, some government sites are still using dial-up connections while they wait for broadband stimulus dollars to transform rural America. Employees even complain that their home networks are faster than their Internet connectivity at work.

What's to be done with shrinking technology budgets? For decades we've known that bundling bandwidth can save dollars. As prices fall, the simple telecommunication math showed that a T3 line (44.736 Mbps) costs between three and six times as much as a T1 line, but offers almost 30 times the capacity, according to Michael Lemm, owner of FreedomFire Communications, a voice and data firm. But the bundling math continues to improve. Recently Michigan signed a contract with AT&T, which offers 500 Mbps pipes between numerous locations for less than four times the price the state pays for a dedicated T1 service.

This means that new opportunities to partner, by sharing networks between state and local governments, have never been more financially or technologically compelling. Here's an example to consider: Let's assume there are 16 dedicated T1 WAN circuits running into various local and state government facilities in one county. If those facilities could connect securely into a county fiber network backbone and ride one consolidated 500 Mbps pipe back to the fiber backbone network, the potential network cost savings would be huge. The quick math shows a 75 percent cost reduction, while offering about 20 times the bandwidth for each of those offices. The annual leased circuit savings for that county alone would be more than $100,000.

This example isn't hypothetical. Michigan's state government currently has nearly 800 dedicated circuits running at various speeds, so the ongoing savings from bundling bandwidth is substantial and the operational benefits are tremendous.

You may be thinking, 'OK, where's the catch? If this is so easy, why hasn't this scenario been more widely adopted in Michigan and nationwide?' The answer goes back to a few assumptions I made about the availability to connect into local government fiber (or perhaps high-speed wireless) backbones. Some of these locations don't have county networks. (However, broadband stimulus dollars and rural broadband plans will soon be changing that connectivity status quo.) Meanwhile, these county or regional networks exist in many parts of the country.

This brings us to the main reason that progress in this area has been slow. Our greatest challenge is governance. Local government CIOs may be thinking: Why do I want to share my network with the state? This connectivity isn't free. What's in it for me? I don't trust the state (or the feds, for that matter). What about security, service-level agreements (SLAs), demarcation points, staffing or a host of other issues?

These discussions must be addressed in memorandums of understanding between governments. Expectations about SLAs must be met on all sides and the savings shared. This deal must be win-win. Michigan is addressing these topics with Oakland County and other local jurisdictions. There's no doubt the governance process will take time and won't be easy.

Nevertheless, the opportunities are immense, and a similar analysis can be applied to connectivity between federal and state government networks. The bottom line is we need to rethink our enterprise architectures. The exciting thing is that shared government networks offer higher speeds and big savings.

Dan Lohrmann Dan Lohrmann  |  Contributing Writer

Daniel J. Lohrmann became Michigan's first chief security officer (CSO) and deputy director for cybersecurity and infrastructure protection in October 2011. Lohrmann is leading Michigan's development and implementation of a comprehensive security strategy for all of the state’s resources and infrastructure. His organization is providing Michigan with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with Michigan assets, property, systems and networks.

Lohrmann is a globally recognized author and blogger on technology and security topics. His keynote speeches have been heard at worldwide events, such as GovTech in South Africa, IDC Security Roadshow in Moscow, and the RSA Conference in San Francisco. He has been honored with numerous cybersecurity and technology leadership awards, including “CSO of the Year” by SC Magazine and “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine.

His Michigan government security team’s mission is to:

  • establish Michigan as a global leader in cyberawareness, training and citizen safety;
  • provide state agencies and their employees with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with state of Michigan assets, property, systems and networks;
  • develop and implement a comprehensive security strategy (Michigan Cyber Initiative) for all Michigan resources and infrastructure;
  • improve efficiency within the state’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget; and
  • provide combined focus on emergency management efforts.

He currently represents the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) on the IT Government Coordinating Council that’s led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also serves as an adviser on TechAmerica's Cloud Commission and the Global Cyber Roundtable.

From January 2009 until October 2011, Lohrmann served as Michigan's chief technology officer and director of infrastructure services administration. He led more than 750 technology staff and contractors in administering functions, such as technical architecture, project management, data center operations, systems integration, customer service (call) center support, PC and server administration, office automation and field services support.

Under Lohrmann’s leadership, Michigan established the award-winning Mi-Cloud data storage and hosting service, and his infrastructure team was recognized by NASCIO and others for best practices and for leading state and local governments in effective technology service delivery.

Earlier in his career, Lohrmann served as the state of Michigan's first chief information security officer (CISO) from May 2002 until January 2009. He directed Michigan's award-winning Office of Enterprise Security for almost seven years.

Lohrmann's first book, Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web, was published in November 2008.  Lohrmann was also the chairman of the board for 2008-2009 and past president (2006-2007) of the Michigan InfraGard Member's Alliance.

Prior to becoming Michigan's CISO, Lohrmann served as the senior technology executive for e-Michigan, where he published an award-winning academic paper titled The Michigan.gov Story — Reinventing State Government Online. He also served as director of IT and CIO for the Michigan Department of Management and Budget in the late 1990s.

Lohrmann has more than 26 years of experience in the computer industry, beginning his career with the National Security Agency. He worked for three years in England as a senior network engineer for Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral Aerospace) and for four years as a technical director for ManTech International in a U.S./UK military facility.

Lohrmann is a distinguished guest lecturer for Norwich University in the field of information assurance. He also has been a keynote speaker at IT events around the world, including numerous SecureWorld and ITEC conferences in addition to online webinars and podcasts. He has been featured in numerous daily newspapers, radio programs and magazines. Lohrmann writes a bimonthly column for Public CIO magazine on cybersecurity. He's published articles on security, technology management, cross-boundary integration, building e-government applications, cloud computing, virtualization and securing portals.

He holds a master’s degree in computer science from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Valparaiso University in Indiana.

NOTE: The columns here are Dan Lohrmann's own views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the state of Michigan's official positions.

Recent Awards:
2011 Technology Leadership Award: InfoWorld
Premier 100 IT Leader for 2010: Computerworld magazine
2009 Top Doers, Dreamers and Drivers: Government Technology magazine
Public Official of the Year: Governing magazine — November 2008
CSO of the Year: SC Magazine — April 2008
Top 25 in Security Industry: Security magazine — December 2007
Compass Award: CSO Magazine — March 2007
Information Security Executive of the Year: Central Award 2006