Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas is a breeding ground for high technology companies.  Not coincidentally, it is also widely regarded as one of the "most wired" cities in America.  Yahoo Internet Life ranked Austin 4th in 1998 and 2nd in 1999.  Pittsburgh, on the other hand, ranked 14th in 1998 and dropped to 40th in 1999.

The "Shared System" I-Net under the 1981 Austin Cablevision Franchise Agreement:
The original cable franchise with Austin Cablevision from 1981 provided for a traditional I-Net, which provided service over 257 miles of the cable company's 400 MHz RF coaxial system.  The I-Net served city facilities, city schools, the community college and the University of Texas.

The I-Net cost about $2 million, which was funded by the cable company.  The participants shared the annual operating costs based upon their proportionate shares of channel capacity.

Initially, video uses predominated, but increasingly the users migrated their data communications onto the network.  The system worked well for uses that were not demand sensitive and it proved to be less expensive than purchasing from private telecommunications companies.

The Upgraded "Shared System" I-Net under the 1996 franchise renewal
On June 13, 1996, the City renewed the cable franchise with Time Warner Communications (Austin CableVision's successor) and included a requirement to upgrade the existing I-Net to a fiber hybrid coaxial system (RF coaxial cable from the home to a node, with fiber to the head-end) and to add another 50 miles to the system.  The agreement extended the franchise for 6 years.

The company agreed to pay up to $2 million in capital costs toward the further construction of the I-Net, although the City could re-allocate to the I-Net an extra $2 million in funds targeted for Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) access.

The company agreed to continue to operate and maintain the I-Net, with the City paying for the services at the company's cost, but not to exceed $250,000 each year.

The agreement provided for the I-Net's connection to the GAATN, but the uses of the I-Net were carefully restricted.  The I-Net was to be used only for non-commercial educational and governmental purposes and for public access television channels.

Dedicated Participant-Funded Network -- The Greater Austin Area Telecommunications Network (GAATN)
The success of the I-Net and the increasing need for more and higher-quality bandwidth prompted the I-Net participants to fund and build their own system, the Greater Austin Area Telecommunications Network (GAATN).  The participants included the city, the county, the school district, the community college, the Lower Colorado River Authority, the State of Texas General Services Commission and the University of Texas.

They built the network with their own funds and created an agency to manage it. Each participant has a member on the Board of Directors.  Voting rights are based on the percentage that each member contributes to the project's costs.

The system cost about $20 million to build.   Nevertheless, the users claims substantial savings compared to their previous contracts with private providers.

The system connects more than 275 governmental and educational sites in a 285 mile high-speed wide area network.  The network consists of a series of 10 fiber optic rings.  Each participant deploys its own equipment on its own strands of fiber, using Token Ring, Ethernet, FDDI, Sonet and ATM technologies.

The participants use the network to transmit data at high speeds, to access the Internet, to provide local and long-distance telephone service (for some of the participants) and for individual participant uses, such as distance learning, access to government information and services (including GIS information), and access to books, videos and music.

Additional background information:

Time Warner franchise agreement
(I-Net provisions are in Section 7 )

GAATN web site
Other GAATN information

1999 Yahoo Internet Life rankings of "Most Wired" cities

1999 Yahoo Internet Life rankings of "Most Wired" cities

Pittsburgh I-Net Home Page
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This page last updated on 26 June, 2000