Winning with VDIP

Hip, young, and up-and-coming, is how Cisco Systems Inc. describes Boisbriand, Que., the latest of 17 Canadian municipalities to adopt the company’s integrated voice, video and data network system.

Municipal governments are under pressure to improve community services while controlling, or even reducing budgets, according to Cisco.

Mississauga, Ont., Canada’s sixth largest city with 690,000 residents, is on track to save its taxpayers $700,000 annually with its converged Cisco IP communication system, the company said.

Calculating the reduced burden per person isn’t very difficult. Mississauga is saving about a $1 for each of its ratepayers.

With Boisbriand’s population of only 28,000 and an average age of 30, there has to be more to the Montreal suburb’s story. After all, the Quebec town probably won’t witness the same sort of savings that Mississauga did.

Brantz Myers, director of enterprise and voice marketing, Cisco Systems Canada, said he thinks the fundamental drivers at work in all 17 municipalities using his company’s IP platform are economic, but young people are more experienced with network-based technologies. Perhaps that’s the difference in Boisbriand. Its youthful population is willing to take a chance, blow the status quo, and forge ahead with IP, an increasingly popular communication infrastructure.

“I think the idea of deploying new technologies where you have people that are comfortable with them may accelerate (implementation and adoption),” said Myers. “But when we look at the financial drivers in an institution, senior financial types will look at the bottom line, and they don’t have to be a younger set.”

In the public sector, communities are willing to share their best practices and their successes with each other, according to Myers.

“If it [were] a private institution in a for-profit business, they would look at their (value proposition) as a competitive advantage,” Myers said. “Because municipalities have their own captive tax base, they can share with each other.”

Myers said the younger people would find some of the applications on the network thrilling – for example, the ability to do voice from a notebook computer or from a personal digital assistant (PDA) through one consolidated access point.

Boisbriand prides itself on being Quebec’s first paper-free municipality and was the City of the Year in 2002, according to the province’s Chamber of Commerce, but its future networking capabilities were dire.

Boisbriand’s existing data network had been showing signs of weakness and the traditional phone system, a private branch exchange (PBX) installed in 1990, had reached its capacity, according to Cisco.

“I believe everything in Boisbriand was replaced,” said Myers. “Typically, in the case of an old infrastructure we will be able to use the facilities and the racks, and sometimes the power infrastructure, and that frees up space.”

By optimizing the use of its fibre-optic network, the City boosted its network capacity from 10 to 100 Mbps. It integrated its separate voice and data networks into a single Cisco IP communications system that links seven municipal buildings, from city hall and the library, to public works and the fire department, Cisco stated in its press release.

The converged voice, video and data network in Boisbriand now features 130 Cisco IP phones and Cisco Unity unified messaging.

Related links:

Quebec school scores top marks with e-collaboration

Quebec slow to embrace outsourcing

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