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Postal Service, MCI Go High-Tech in the Triangle

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DURHAM — The Triangle is playing a bigger role in the country's dealings with theU.S. Postal Service. On Wednesday, the Postal Service andMCIunveiled a new telecommunications network center in Research Triangle Park.

As WRAL'sTom Lawrenceexplains, this year-and-a-half long project will move the Postal Service into the next century and makes possible better service for customers.

The Network Operations Center is the control point for a $3.3 billion managed network. The network will eventually tie together postal sites with the newest technologies.

More than 120 people at the center give Postal Service locations round-the-clock, seven-days-a-week service. For now, the high-speed, high-capacity network is for internal use, allowing customers to get more information at post office counters.

"It means that we're going to be able to use the network to support the retail environment," says U.S. Postal Service Vice President Rick Weirich. "We're going to be doing a lot of technical things in terms of remote management and remote administration."

When fully operational, this will be the largest virtual private network -- an Intranet with space for more than 16 million connections.

The Triangle was chosen for the center because the area is home to MCI's Global Network Management Center in Cary and has lots of fiber optic cable capacity.

"We manage all of our network here and then we manage specialized customer networks just like the Postal Service and the FAA. [Those] are two good examples of that," explains MCI's Jerry Edgerton.

These are high-paying jobs manned by skilled people and MCI has moved hundreds of workers into the area.

"Last year, we hired over 500 folks just to manage this business," says MCI's Kevin Ghanan. "It's growing quick and this is becoming a major hub, telecommunications hub, from the Raleigh-Durham area, that we manage all of MCI's network."

Individuals and businesses send lots of mail. Weirich says the network should improve efficiency and could bring more services like information on demand, electronic postmarks and more.

"We plan to change with customer demand and try to meet needs in the future that will be very different from the ones we have today."

This Network Operations Center is just part of the future plans for the Postal Service. The Electronic Data Systems operation in Raleigh is setting up a new system of Point of Service computer terminals. All of this could lead to surprising new services from the Postal Service.


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