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Big Tech Upgrades at the State Capitol

8/9/2017 8:07:59 AM

Minnesota capital dome with computer code behind it.

After nearly four years of construction, Minnesota will get the chance to celebrate the largest public preservation effort in state history – the restoration of the State Capitol! As part of the plan to rebuild crumbling infrastructure and maximize public space, the Capitol also underwent key technological upgrades and became more accessible to the public.

The Minnesota State Capitol opened in 1905, over a century ago. Since that time, technology and its relationship with consumers has changed dramatically. Cass Gilbert, the Capitol’s architect, could never have imagined how an increasingly wired world would change the ways people interact with public space.

As such, bringing the Capitol solidly into the 21st century required some heavy lifting. “Minnesota IT Services staff was instrumental in this process,” said Wayne Waslaski, Senior Director of Real Estate and Construction Services at the Department of Administration. Partnering with the restoration project team and the Minnesota Department of Administration, Minnesota IT Services worked to install and design better IT systems throughout the building.

A few of the technology upgrades include: all new audio-visual systems, a distributed antenna system to increase communication during public safety and security incidents, new security cameras, new TVs in all of the public spaces for the public to watch hearings and legislative session, and improved broadcasting capabilities from Hearing Rooms and the House and Senate Chambers.

Minnesota IT Services’ Bruce Zimmerman worked on coordinating the installation of all new fiber running through the building. This new fiber is the backbone of the Capitol’s tech upgrades, connecting each agency operating within the building to the network. Additionally, the Capitol has two wiring closets - rooms where network connections can be made. “Having two closets allows us to have increased capacity for our network and resiliency. If one closet has issues or stops working, the whole system will not go offline,” said Mr. Zimmerman.

In general, many of these improvements increase public access to the Capitol building itself. During the restoration process, IT infrastructure was added – infrastructure that made free Wi-Fi in public spaces reliable and available. All public spaces have Wi-Fi coverage, no matter where you’re standing. As legislators, lobbyists, constituents, and advocates gather at the Capitol to lay the groundwork for the future of our state, they can keep up with each other and work to advance legislation in real time online.

Another improvement to increase public access to the building comes in assistance helping those who are hard of hearing. The Capitol has new audio loop systems, which provide assistive listening technology so stakeholders are able to pick up what is being said or discussed in hearing rooms and other public spaces.

These technological upgrades, along with the changes made to the Capitol’s exterior and physical space, create a welcoming place where Minnesotans can comfortably engage in public discourse with political leadership. The Minnesota State Capitol is not simply a beautiful historic building – Minnesota IT Services is thrilled to have assisted in making it a functional one for today’s technological needs.

Digital Government

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