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Report Rips Government Wireless Network Effort 54

coondoggie writes with this excerpt from NetworkWorld: "Like a bunch of children in a sandbox unable and perhaps unwilling to share their toys, multiple key government agencies cannot or will not cooperate to build a collaborative wireless network. The Government Accountability Office report (PDF) issued today took aim at the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and the Treasury which had intended what's known as The Integrated Wireless Network (IWN) to be a joint radio communications system to improve communication among law enforcement agencies. However IWN, which has already cost millions of dollars, is no longer being pursued as a joint development project, the GAO said. By abandoning collaboration on a joint implementation, the departments risk duplication of effort and inefficient use of resources as they continue to invest significant resources in independent solutions. Further, these efforts will not ensure the interoperability needed to serve day-to-day law enforcement operations or a coordinated response to terrorist or other events, the GAO said."
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Report Rips Government Wireless Network Effort

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  • by sanpitch ( 9206 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @08:34PM (#26098451)

    See title. Basically like the GPS, you can access the internet from anywhere using special technology. Security is obviously going to be the biggest issue however.

    GPS is not a two-way system. It is transmit only, and you need to use some other system to get your data back 'up' to the satellite. This 'uplink' part of a satellite nework requires special antennas or lotsa power; it's not an option.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @08:38PM (#26098505)
    Satellite internet systems are and have been available to the public. But it is usually used by people who are in rural areas, because of the signal delays (latency) involved. A packet has to get from your computer up to the satellite, relayed back to a ground station where it is put on the Internet, then the returning packets have to go up to the satellite, then back to your computer...

    I worked as a tech in a store that sold some of the first Satellite internet systems. It was broadband... the overall speed was good, and better than dialup (not may people had access to cable internet yet at the time). But that latency was a killer. Type in a URL and hit "go", and you waited. And waited. 3 seconds, 4 seconds, 6 seconds... then WHAM! Your page displayed all at once.

    It works, but it is not ideal.
  • by spisska ( 796395 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:06PM (#26099229)

    why was it impossible? the sending of images, phone, push to talk and data has been around for years - it's called cell technology and i hear it's already in use....

    It's not that any one thing they wanted was impossible. It's that doing all of it more or less at once, in the same place, with the same device fitting their size and power requirements, supporting as many simultaneous users per tower, and covering as large an area per tower as they wanted was impossible.

    That's speaking purely about the end-user devices and towers. Add to that the necessary complexity of allowing fast and seamless access to government data repositories, but only the right repositories for the right people at the right time, over a network that is available wirelessly everywhere in the US.

    Just because someone is an agent at one federal agency doesn't mean they get access to all federal data. You really don't want a passport-stamper at the US border to take your fingerprint on this thing and instantly have access to all your (or someone who shares your name) tax records, for example. Let alone driving record, library record, bank details (if you file online), school transcripts (if you attended public schools), employment history, Social Security contributions, medical history (if you use Medicaid or Medicare), and so on. Unless your name happens to be John Ashcroft.

    And what happens when an agent forgets his device at a hotel bar or leaves it in a cab?

    And none of that even begins to address the person-to-person and person-to-group push-to-talk capability they wanted on a national network with tens of thousands of simultaneous users.

    It's not the specific tasks that are impossible, it's the package that is impossible.

  • by schnell ( 163007 ) <me&schnell,net> on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:28PM (#26099679) Homepage

    They do make satellite phones, and they don't require a generator and a parabolic dish to use.

    True, but satellite networks present a lot of problems for networks like this that are used for government public safety/emergencies, such as:

    1. Higher latency than terrestrial radio (GEO satellites have ~500 ms of round trip latency and LEO satellites still have 100+ ms in most systems). Bad for real-time applications and a killer for push-to-talk voice in "shoot or don't shoot" scenarios like this might be used for
    2. With satellite you choose between big (2+ feet) high power (1-4 watt transmitter) dishes that can be used for broadband, or portable/handheld devices that can't squeak out much more than 9.6 kbps data rates
    3. You're talking about $150-$300M per satellite for a private (government only) network ... this is the cost structure that bankrupted Iridium and many other folks as well.

    There are lots of needs in the government emergency network space that make it more complicated and difficult than it seems at first blush ... of course that still doesn't entirely excuse the bungle that was made with IWN, though.

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