City Council increases its own budget, partly for "Internet-technology upgrades," Councilman says desktop speeds are stuck in the 60s - Technical.ly Philly

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Jul. 3, 2012 11:03 am

City Council increases its own budget, partly for “Internet-technology upgrades,” Councilman says desktop speeds are stuck in the 60s

City Council approved the mayor’s $3.6 billion budget last Thursday, the Philadelphia Daily News reported, but Council also chose to delay Mayor Michael Nutter’s tax-overhaul plan one year (we previously wrote about a tool that allowed you to visualize the possible effect of the tax overhaul). In that relatively timely budget agreement were a handful […]

Councilman Brian O’Neill told OIT that Council computers are stuck in the past. Photo from Philly.com, Steven M. Falk

City Council approved the mayor’s $3.6 billion budget last Thursday, the Philadelphia Daily News reported, but Council also chose to delay Mayor Michael Nutter’s tax-overhaul plan one year (we previously wrote about a tool that allowed you to visualize the possible effect of the tax overhaul).

In that relatively timely budget agreement were a handful of interesting technology stories — including a boosted internal budget for Council and a Councilman who wants his City Hall Internet speed to advance beyond 1960s-era technology.

Below, find the tech-relevant takeaways:


First, from the Daily News piece:

After voting to increase taxes, Council increased its own budget by $500,000. Council spokeswoman Jane Roh said the money would be used for the Jobs Commission, which will examine the issue of unemployment and ways to improve the city’s work force. Some of the money will also be used to beef up Council’s technical staff to deal with AVI for fiscal year 2014. Roh said that Council would also use the additional resources toward Internet-technology upgrades.

[…]

Following years of major cuts, this budget was essentially painless. and money the city saved because it didn’t have to purchase salt for snow removal last winter.There are $2.2 million in departmental reductions, most are from contract changes at the Office of Information Technology. [more]

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We’re waiting to hear back about the specifics of Council’s Internet-technology upgrades, but a Council hearing from early June might provide more context.

On June 13, Council’s Committee on Technology and Information Services held a hearing for a bill introduced by Councilman Curtis Jones. The bill proposed the authorization of the Office of Information Technology (now the Office of Innovation and Technology) to enter into up to two, four-year contracts for access to research services and legal publications.

Basically, OIT needed approval from City Council to enter into these four-year contracts for research databases, like Lexis. OIT says it’s cheaper to enter into multi-year contracts. Pretty standard stuff.

But here’s where it gets interesting: Toward the end of the hearing, according to the hearing transcript, Councilman Brian O’Neill brings up the internet speed in his office. It’s slow, he says. Dark ages slow. (It’s something we’ve heard before from Council members but not as direct nor as often in a public setting)

According to the transcript, he asks OIT representatives at the hearing: “Could you get back to us with a separate letter and when we can get our speeds up in City Council on our desktops to at least pre-1990 but post-1960, because I think that’s where we are right now. I mean, simple things. The first time the computer is warmed up can take ten minutes.”

O’Neill goes on to say that Council’s computers should be as fast as any computer in a private sector company. Then he tells OIT that if it can give Council the aforementioned letter, indicating when Council’s computers can get updated, Council will be more likely to approve OIT’s contracts.

“When people start bringing their own computers and their own wireless cards into work, you know something is wrong and you don’t have to go any further than that,” O’Neill says. “So if you can give us that by next Thursday, it would help us gather the votes for this bill.”

The bill passed last Thursday, according to Shoshana Bricklin, legislative aide to Jones. We’ll check with Council and OIT to find out about how smoothly the Council computers are running.

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