Thursday, January 16, 2014


I have written in this blog about using interactive television to conduct court hearings.  The story of how we came to have ITV in Sibley County is interesting.  It is also, very possibly, the beginning of the broadband internet connecting all Minnesota courthouses today.

Back in the olden days, when the internet was in its infancy, it was decided that the Extension Service in selected courthouses should install an internet connection to enable citizens to give this new tool a try.  Susan Englemann was the Sibley County Extension Agent at the time.  She and I would often have coffee or lunch and had collaborated on many county projects, both when I was county attorney and later as judge.

At  one of these conversations, I mentioned to her that the Courts were looking to install ITV in the County, but that the cost of a high speed T-1 line was daunting.  Sue said that perhaps we could piggy-back on the Extension Service internet project.  So, I made a call to the Court’s Chief Information Officer, Dale Good, and found not only was that possible, but that there were several other high-capacity telephone lines to county offices that could also share the T-1 line with plenty of capacity left over for ITV. 

The State had been operating MNet, a high capacity communications network that went to some, but not all, counties in Minnesota.  State agencies, and the Courts, contracted with MNet to ride along on that backbone, at a cost.  When Mr. Good approached MNet, he learned that several other agencies were interested in getting direct communications through the backbone.

Thus it happened that state and county agencies collaborated to combine multiple lines from Human Services, Public Health, County Auditor and perhaps one or to more on to one T-1 line, which enabled us to bring the cost of the data line for ITV to a more reasonable and affordable cost.  Statewide, the Courts cost went from about $900,000 to $250,000 – mainly because Sue Englemann and I had coffee one morning!  (I know it would have happened eventually, but I like to take a small amount of credit for this happening.)  The ITV was relatively inexpensive, as it rode on a part of the T-1 line that was excess capacity.

Since that first collaboration, all counties have combined their high-capacity telephone lines into T-1 lines and broadband internet service, which enables not only ITV but also the Court’s computerized case management system as well as other computerized communications among partners in the criminal justice system, known as CriMNet.

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Next Week:  Drivers License Cases