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Telecommunication technology changing business, education and life at home

Voice and data transmission options growing in state

BellSouth will begin offering ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line), state-of-the-art technology for transferring data up to 50 times faster than standard service, in four Jackson areas during the third quarter of 1999.

With ADSL, large data files such as audio files, research documents, product literature and patient records can be downloaded or transferred in seconds rather than minutes.

Currently about 63% of BellSouth offices in Mississippi offer ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network), a service that enables its users to simultaneously communicate through integrated voice, data and video transmissions over a single access line at higher speeds than normal voice lines.

“ISDN has proven particularly popular for work-at-home applications, home-based businesses and Internet access,” said Larry L. Johnson, public affairs vice president for BellSouth. “ISDN is currently available in 129 offices in Mississippi with seven additional offices scheduled for 1999.”

The state’s phone network was designed for voice. However, Johnson said with the increasing demand for data transmission, BellSouth is continually building out their network to meet the needs of customers with advanced technology such as ISDN and ADSL.

“BellSouth’s networks are becoming more and more important as we move further into the age of digital and data telecommunications needs,” Johnson said. “BellSouth’s network is built on information technology, the marriage of computers and communications networks, both at home and at work. And while the telephone remains at the heart of our business, other communications devices have joined it there, the most important being the personal computer.

“Business and residential customers increasingly link computers to other computers through networks, the Internet being the most widely recognized one. Naturally then, computers generate an increasing portion of the traffic on our networks.”

Education in Mississippi is also evolving to benefit from Internet technology. The Mississippi Interactive Video network uses BellSouth facilities to connect 100 schools, kindergarten through high school, and over 50 other college, university and other sites. Among other things, this allows children in poor, rural districts to take courses not offered at their schools.

Jackson Public Schools and BellSouth Business are working to bring one of the nation’s most advanced, high-speed voice-data-and-video networks to Mississippi’s largest school district. Built using asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) technology, The Learning Connection will serve as a platform for delivering advanced teaching, administrative and security systems to students and employees at schools throughout the city.

“We at BellSouth are especially pleased with what we are undertaking with the Jackson Public Schools,” Johnson said. “It will be a powerful new tool for learning and for administering the day-to-day operations of the school system. We’re linking 58 schools and eight administrative offices with some of our most advanced network technology available today. With its new network, the Jackson Public Schools can do a better job of preparing youngsters for the future. This is a visionary move on the part of the Jackson Public Schools, which will ultimately open up more opportunity for students in the future.”

Johnson said today’s information technology offers incredible promise not only in education and business, but also in other fields such as health care. For example, through the technology of telemedicine, a health care professional can treat patients and consult with other health care providers in remote locations.

“This is not the kind of thing you usually think of when you think of the phone company,” Johnson said. “However, our networks are making it possible. We are in a new era of communications. It is opening up new opportunities across the board-for business, for schools, for hospitals, and for individuals.”

One blip on the telecommunications highway is that heavy phone usage in Mississippi can lead to difficulties getting through due to an “all circuits busy” message. When businesses can’t use the phone due to busy signals, significant productivity can be lost.

Johnson said that even though opening two new area codes in Mississippi has provided more telephone numbers, an “all circuits busy” message is caused by excessive “traffic” or usage on the network.

“For instance, during peak business hours between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays, you may have an unusually high number of callers on the network, which could cause a customer to get a recording when their call cannot be completed,” Johnson said. “Both calls within an area code as well as those dialed into another area code can be impacted by the demand on the network.

“BellSouth’s networks are built to handle large volumes of calls, but when the traffic on the network occasionally exceeds our capacity, we record this information which is fed into a larger database. This lets us know when and where access lines and trunks must be increased to reduce capacity problems.”

BellSouth is also continuing to take precautions to assure that the telephone network will keep functioning if hurricanes strike the Mississippi Gulf Coast. If a hurricane threatens, precautions are made to protect each of the 17 central offices that provide telephone service along the Coast from Pearlington to Pascagoula, as well as any other switching centers that might be affected by a storm.

“We take every precaution to deal with a natural disaster of any magnitude to prepare our network and employees,” Johnson said. “We have built a telecommunications network in Mississippi as advanced and reliable as any in the world.”

Switching offices are equipped with generators and batteries to keep them running should they lose commercial power. High winds and falling limbs cause most of the damage during storms. The company places some phone lines underground and designs other lines to withstand high winds. Wires and splices inside those cables are protected from rain and floods by waterproof “jelly-like” compounds.

And with the increased use of high-capacity fiber optic cable and the state’s 100% electronic central offices, the BellSouth network often can redirect calls automatically when a cable is cut.


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