THE USE OF MODERN
BY PARLIAMENTS AND PARLIAMENTARIANS
Science and Technology Division
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WHAT IS THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY?
ACCESS TO THE INTERNET
CURRENT USES OF THE INTERNET FOR
INFORMATION ON THE INTERNET
FUTURE USES OF THE INTERNET
OTHER MODERN COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY
- INTERNET AND INTERNET TERMS
- GENERAL INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY TERMS
THE USE OF MODERN
BY PARLIAMENTS AND PARLIAMENTARIANS*
In the current environment, when the
public demands increased access, transparency, accountability, and efficiency from its
institutions and its representatives, parliaments and parliamentarians are expected to
offer solutions to the ever more complex problems of society. To help fulfil this mandate,
parliaments, as a well as individual parliamentarians, are relying more and more on
The use of communications technology is
expanding world-wide so that in many respects distance and location are no longer
obstacles to effective communication. Although many of the developing nations do not have
the same level of communications infrastructure as developed nations, the latest
technologies, such as satellites and digital wireless cellular systems, are allowing them
to overcome this limitation by leapfrogging over some stages of the development cycle. The
trend for rapidly evolving and more affordable technology should continue into the
foreseeable future and will have wide-ranging consequences.
The types and uses of communications
technologies continue to increase. A little over 100 years ago the telegraph and the
telephone were the latest in communications technology. In recent decades we have seen the
arrival of the now ubiquitous fax machine, the pager and the various versions of cellular
telephones, as well as the capability for inexpensive teleconferencing. One of most
dramatic communications breakthroughs has been the advent of the "information
This paper will describe how many
parliaments and parliamentarians are already using communications technology effectively
and how this use will expand in the future. The emphasis will be on applications used by
parliamentarians to communicate with constituents and the media and the use of the
information highway in conducting research.
IS THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY?
The basic technology that allows the
information highway to exist has been with us for some time. Specifically, the term refers
to the convergence of separate telecommunications and computing hardware systems into a
single global "network of networks" carrying a wide range of information
content. An integral part of the information highway is the sophisticated software
intelligence that enable users to navigate pathways to a whole universe of information.
Though some of the claims made for the highway have been greatly exaggerated, many of the
technical problems experienced only a few years ago have been resolved much more quickly
Nowadays we still use distinct systems for
various services, such as telephone, cable and satellite systems and computer networks;
however, this is quickly changing. The advent of two new technologies,
"digitization" and "fibre optics" has revolutionized the communication
industry. Digitization is the conversion of text, sound, images, video and other content
into a common digitized format to permit all communication systems to be connected in a
single network. The replacement of copper wires with fire optic cable and the use of
digital telecommunication switches have greatly increased the number of signals that can
be squeezed into a wire or cable (bandwidth). This allows applications that move large
amounts of information, for example videos or X-ray images for remote medical diagnosis,
to become increasingly rapid and cost-effective.
The number of individuals, governments and
private businesses using the Internet has grown very rapidly and is now significant. Many
of the private global networks, such as America On Line and CompuServe, are now fully
connected to the Internet. In the past few years, some key Internet issues, such as
effective security for information and secure financial transactions, have been resolved.
This success, coupled with the range of digital material flowing through the system,
suggests that the Internet may indeed be the forerunner of the global information highway.
(A brief explanation of Internet and of some common terms associated with it is provided
in Appendix 1.)
Information technology is changing our
world. It is reshaping our economy and affecting the life and work of almost every
Canadian. As converging communications technologies bring digital content into the
nation's businesses and homes in new ways, Canadians are beginning to sense what it means
to travel the Information Highway.(1)
Knowledge in the form of an informational
commodity indispensable to productive power is already, and will continue to be, a
majorperhaps the majorstake in the worldwide competition for power. It
is conceivable that the nation-states will one day fight for control of information, just
as they battled in the past for control over territory, and afterwards for control over
access to and exploitation of raw materials and cheap labor.(2)
ACCESS TO THE INTERNET
The number of Internet users is difficult
to estimate but it is expanding very quickly. At the start of the 1990s there were one
million people connected to a text-driven computer network choked with e-mail and binary
scientific information. As joining the Internet became easier, however, its value
increased. The number of Internet users world-wide has grown to an estimated 57 million,
according to John S. Quarterman of Matrix Information and Directory Services in Austin,
Texas. Quarterman estimates that the number will reach 700 million by the end of the
century.(3) Currently, the greatest per capita usage is
in the developed nations, with Canada and the U.S. having amongst the highest penetration
rates. Some sources suggest that by early 1996 over 17% of Canadians had access to the
Internet, either from their home or office.(4)
The advent of cheaper personal computers
and low-cost telecommunication devices such as modems,(5)
increases the likelihood that more people throughout the world will gain access to the
Internet. As well, many countries are connecting schools and public libraries to the
Internet; universities were amongst the first institutions to be connected to the system.
In this respect, Canada is breaking new ground.
These two programs, the community access
program and the SchoolNet program, are aimed at trying to .... build the skill sets on
young people so they'll be able to enter the job market, very quickly transfer to
employment and become well positioned to be entrepreneurs in this global economy. Second,
they're aimed at the communities involved producing jobs and growth. ...
It (SchoolNet) started in May 1993 with an
attempt to link 12 schools and to see whether we could use the information highway....to
bring additional resources to schools in a very low-cost manner. The program was
successful and went on to a goal of linking 300 schools. Today we're up to about 6,000 of
the 16,000 schools in Canada being linked to the information highway.
This morning (26 March, 1996) there was an
announcement of a partnership between the provincial governments, the federal government,
and the telephone companies to link all schools in Canada by the end of the next school
year (1997/98). That will put us about three years ahead of the American goal. In fact, we
will have achieved the goal before the U.S. government will actually have got its program
very much under way.
The goal of SchoolNet really is to
facilitate the linkage of the 16,000 schools and 3,400 libraries in Canada, which are very
important to the development of the skill sets we have been talking about, and, in
particular, the 447 native communities that fall under the federal government's
Community access - ... Its goals and
structure are quite a bit different. The aim of this project is to get as many rural and
remote communities in Canada onto the information highway as quickly as possible. ... So
the goal of this program was to bring a minimum of a thousand communities onto the
information highway by 1998.(6)
Although the developed countries have a
particularly extensive telecommunications infrastructure, the increased use of satellite
communications, as well as proposed special purpose satellites dedicated to the
information highway, should enable access to the Internet from anywhere in the world. An
example of this satellite technology is the Teledesic Network proposed by Microsoft and
telecommunications pioneer Craig McCaw. This network would be a broad-band mobile
communications network relying on a constellation of hundreds of low Earth-orbit
satellites. Teledesic is designed for "fibrelike" wireless telecommunications
services, including interactive Internet access, voice, data, and video-conferencing. The
cost of Internet access will act as a barrier for many, however, particularly in less
CURRENT USES OF THE INTERNET FOR
The use of the Internet by parliaments
and parliamentarians is increasing swiftly. The U.S., Canada, and the European countries
were amongst the first to provide information on parliamentary activities via the
Internet. In Canada, the federal, provincial, territorial and many municipal governments
now offer a wide range of information and services through this medium.
Listed below are some of the general
applications of the information highway as they relate to Parliament:
The public in numerous
countries, including Canada, now has access to copies of legislation, parliamentary
proceedings, and committee meeting minutes directly on the Internet from the parliamentary
WEB sites. The information is normally very up-to-date, although this varies greatly among
legislatures; in Canada, Hansard is available the day following the proceedings it
Listed below are some of the ways in which
individual parliamentarians use the information highway:
E-mail has become a basic
communication tool between the parliamentarian and the media and constituents. The newer
computer networks, such as that of Canadas parliament, fully integrate internal
e-mail with e-mail from the Internet. Thus, the parliamentarian can send an e-mail to the
next office or around the world.
The Internet is an
invaluable research tool, providing access to a wide range of useful information from
government sources (Canadian and foreign as well as federal, provincial and municipal),
academia, electronic journals and magazines, private industry, publications and numerous
special interest groups and discussion groups. Unfortunately, sorting the "wheat from
the chaff" can be difficult and time-consuming.
Some say the Internet is as a virtual
library, but this is far from being true. Currently, the Internet provides access to a
large assortment of information on virtually any subject, mainly through the numerous
specialized user groups and WEB Sites. WEB sites cover a huge range, from personal sites
for diaries, to pornographic material, to illegal copies of software, to specialized items
of personal interest, to large sites from major companies, institutions and governments
that carry sales promotion and information items.
One sometimes hears the Internet
characterized as the world's library for the digital age. This description does not stand
up under even casual examination. The Internet--and particularly its collection of
multimedia resources known as the World Wide Web--was not designed to support the
organized publication and retrieval of information, as libraries are. It has evolved into
what might be thought of as a chaotic repository for the collective output of the world's
digital "printing presses." This storehouse of information contains not only
books and papers but raw scientific data, menus, meeting minutes, advertisements, video
and audio recordings, and transcripts of interactive conversations. The ephemeral mixes
everywhere with works of lasting importance.
In short, the Net is not a digital
Special interest groups frequently have
WEB sites with one-sided or biased information. Moreover, the information available even
from the best sources may be incomplete or inaccurate and can at best only assist in
establishing the general parameters of an issue. The accuracy of the information should
not be blindly accepted, simply because it was obtained from the information highway. One
should apply the same scepticism to it as to material from other sources.
Indeed, professionals using the Internet
warn that, without the necessary informed analysis, the vast amount of information
available through the Internet can hinder the decision-making process rather than help it.
The modern lawmaker requires a diversity
of information sources to assist in analysing the complex issues facing the legislatures
.... legislators need filters to sift through the avalanche of information literally
flooding their offices. A combination of improved information systems and more analytical
staff capabilities can help to address the perennial problem of finding the right
information when it is needed in a form that is useful.(8)
Thus, resources must be dedicated to
filtering the available information and preparing analysis and review of related policy
issues if the usefulness of the information highway is to be fully realized.
FUTURE USES OF THE INTERNET BY
Many future uses of the Internet by
parliamentarians and parliaments are already technically possible. For example, the
Internet can permit the transmission of real-time images, sound and telephone
Congress took a step into the 21st century
Wednesday, broadcasting a hearing live over the Internet for the first time.
Choosing an appropriate topic to test the
waters, the Senate Science, Technology and Space subcommittee sent a live audio feed of
its proceedings about on-line commerce and encryption software to hundreds of listeners
around the world.
About 40 people also participated in an
on-line discussion with congressional staff as the hearing progressed.(9)
In the future, the general availability of
very broadband high speed telecommunications services will permit simultaneous multi-media
transmission (voice, data, and video) via the Internet at low cost. This could be
particularly useful for receiving testimony from remote locations or even direct from
constituents homes. Desktop videophones operating over the Internet should allow
virtual conferences with parliamentarians from different legislatures, at all levels of
government and in various countries.
Many of the other possible uses of the
Internet listed below would be relatively easy to implement in developed countries such as
Canada. The general low penetration rate of the Internet in many developing nations,
however, makes implementation there a much further off prospect.
E-mail, teleconferencing and limited
discussion forums over the Internet would permit parliamentary associations to operate as
if all their members were effectively in the same building.
Intelligent Internet "agents"
are becoming increasingly popular in researching material or keeping informed on
developments in specified areas of interest.
Allowing parliamentarians to vote from a
distance (i.e., from outside the legislature) has been discussed as a possibility in
several legislatures and has been technically feasible for some time. In the U.S., some
envisage a "virtual Washington" in which members of Congress can debate and vote
from their homes.(10) It would not be difficult to
envisage a day in the not too distant future when this will be a real possibility for
parliamentarians in many countries. In principle, voting would be easier for Members who
are forced to be absent from the House; however, it also might be more difficult to ensure
that they actually vote.
Electronic voting via the Internet, or
its future replacement, is another possibility. Several versions of electronic voting
could exist; individuals could vote by telephone or by a video screen. The greater
convenience of these methods of voting could potentially increase voter turnout and make
it easier for citizens with restricted mobility to exercise their franchise.
The Internet might also be used to
conduct national plebiscites or referendums. Within the next four to six years, a large
proportion of the upper and middle classes in developed nations will likely have
individual on-line access while the others will probably have access though municipal
facilities, particularly public libraries. Now that some of the security issues have been
resolved, this is technically possible in the near term. Electronic national plebiscites
or referendums providing a form of direct representation are a real possibility. This
could raise a number of challenges, such as ensuring equitable access for poorer citizens,
possibly redefining some basic civil rights, and enabling citizens to petition their
OTHER MODERN COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY
Other communication media vary greatly in
appearance and technological complexity; they include conventional paper products and
associated transmission methods, such as couriers and fax machines, and computer
diskettes, which can be sent through the mail or hand-delivered. The most commonly used
(and frequently overlooked) example of information technology is the telephone, the basic
tool from which the rest of the telecommunication industry evolved. (A brief explanation
of some common general information technology terms is provided in Appendix 2.) Some
of the products and services already used or about to be used by parliaments and
parliamentarians are described below.
Private Branch Exchanges (PBXs) which
enhance the capabilities of the telephone and make possible such features as voice mail,
phone forward, and call display;
Cellular phones, digital cellular
telephones and advanced pagers - capable of being used virtually anywhere;
Special commercial communication lines,
based in part on the use of fibre optics, and capable of transmitting very large
quantities of digital data;
Teleconferencing, made possible by high
capacity city digital lines, coupled with television technology; (Teleconferencing was
used extensively in the last Canadian Parliament.)
Modern fax/modems capable of sending and
receiving information, both faxes and digital files, over ordinary telephone lines;
Low cost videoconferencing
hardware/software packages (sometimes called videophone) functioning over a wide range of
communications; (These packages add a small television camera (both colour and black/white
versions), additional hardware and specialized software to a personal computer. Currently
the quality and size of the image are acceptable and steady progress is being made.
Videoconferencing with several participants can be arranged locally where a high speed
network exists or over longer distances with special digital communication lines.)
The "whiteboard," whereby
participants located in various locations can work on a common surface to present
information and make changes in real-time, either in conjunction with videoconferencing or
on its own;
Mobile communication systems (personal
digital assistants) allowing users full access from almost any location to a wide range of
information services such as e-mail, their own network resources, telephone calls,
videocalls, and the information highway. These are frequently used with digital cellular
telephone systems and portable computers.
The promise of worldwide wireless
communication by means of mobile phones and pagers will shortly become a reality when the
Iridium project--a worldwide wireless service for voice, data, fax, and paging--begins
commercial operation in 1998. Iridium will track the location of subscribers phones
and allow communication between any two points in the world. The hand-held phones will
connect to notebooks, personal digital assistants, and "palmtops" (small
hand-held palmtop computers).
Thus, communications technology will
become ever more pervasive in the daily lives of parliamentarians and their constituents.
Canadians may well expect, or even insist on, full access to their elected officials as
well as to information and services at all levels of government operations.
With the use of communication technology,
Members offices, both in Parliament and in their constituencies, could be better
integrated and made more business-like. Having access to more information could help
Members to compile information about the interests and concerns of their constituents and
thereby respond to constituents' requests more efficiently. The technology could also help
political parties in formulating party policies. On the other hand, there is some danger
that expanded e-mail communication between legislators and constituents could overburden
parliamentarians and their staff.
The technology can provide useful
information for those reviewing legislation or working on parliamentary committees and can
facilitate communication among parliamentarians and various stakeholders. Even with this
additional information and enhanced communication, however, the actual decision-making
process in a parliamentary environment will be fundamentally unchanged.
From an institutional viewpoint,
communication technology has the potential to streamline the legislative process.
Depending on the will of parliamentarians, it could undeniably increase their access to
government information and help realize them to fulfil their mandate to oversee and
monitor the activities of the executive branch. This technology could also allow citizens
to have better access to, and participation in, their Parliament and government, thereby
bringing democracy closer to the people.
Parliaments and parliamentarians can and
do use communication technology, in particular the Internet, to play their roles more
effectively. The usefulness of the Internet as a research tool and to facilitate effective
communications among parliamentarians and with their constituents, is certain to increase
in the foreseeable future. Legislatures can expand their use of this technology to reduce
travel costs, boost dialogue with constituents, improve their effectiveness in responding
to constituents requests, inform the public of the activities of elected officials,
enhance the decision-making process within parliaments, and promote dialogue and
cooperation among various levels of government and between countries. Some potential
pitfalls, however, are information overload, and information that is of poor quality or
not analyzed. The uneven availability and affordability of the Internet, particularly in
developing countries, also remains an obstacle to its use worldwide.
INTERNET AND INTERNET TERMS
Overview of Internet
What is the Internet? The Internet is
a major network made up of smaller networks that agree to communicate using a common set
of standards. The Internet currently has world wide coverage with 16 million host
computers in January 1997.(11) The actual number of
users is difficult to determine with any accuracy but one estimate is that there are 57
million world-wide users.
What Kind of Information Is on the
Internet? Most information available free on the Internet consists of government
documents, works with expired copyrights, works in the public domain, and material that
the authors are making available on an experimental basis. As the Internet has grown, so
has the interest from commercial concerns. Electronic mail and electronic cash for
purchases on the Internet are common and allow on-line retailing with product specs,
icons, and photos to help buyers.
What are the Main Uses of the Internet?
The Internet makes it possible to use e-mail, conduct on-line conversations, access
databases, retrieve files and participate in a variety of discussions all over the world.
The most used service remains the e-mail, where every user on Internet has a unique
identification. The second most common use is for the world wide web sites: over 1.1
million sites existed in June 1997.(12)
Commonly Used Internet Terms
Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line
(ADSL) -- A digital phone-line technology that supports high-speed connections to the
Internet using ordinary copper telephone wires. ADSL is "asymmetric" because
uplink speeds (64 Kbps) differ markedly from downlink speeds (up to 6 Mbps). ADSL is
currently available only in selected markets.
Archie -- A network service that
searches File Transfer Protocol (FTP) sites for files based on relatively simple search
Browser -- Software that provides
an interface to the World Wide Web, with Netscape and Microsoft Explorer being the two
most popular systems.
CERN -- European Particle Physics
Laboratory, a collective of researchers.
Central Services Organization (CSO)
-- A service that facilitates searching for users and addresses in databases.
Domain Name Service (DNS) --
The on-line database that correlates Internet IP addresses (for example, 22.214.171.124) to
human-readable domain names such as parl.gc.ca. The database isn't stored on any one
computer; rather, it is distributed among thousands of name servers spread throughout the
Extranet -- An extranet is similar
to a corporate intranet but extends out over the Internet. It allows selected companies
(or organizations) to access the company's system across the Internet, while keeping
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
-- A document with answers to frequently asked questions. FAQs are widely available
on-line and cover a broad spectrum of topics ranging from gourmet cooking to the inner
workings of TCP/IP.
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) -- A
common method of transferring files across networks.
Finger -- A service that responds
to queries and retrieves user information remotely.
Gopher -- A text-based, menu-driven
information service that allows users to retrieve information without having to know the
locations of the resources. The use of gophers has greatly diminished with the rapid
increase in the use of the WWW.
Hit -- As used in reference to the
World Wide Web, "hit" means a single request from a web browser for a single
item from a web server; thus in order for a web browser to display a page that contains
three graphics, four "hits" would occur at the server: one for the HTML page,
and one for each of the three graphics. "hits" are often used as a very rough
measure of load on a server.
Home Page (or Homepage) -- Home
Page has several meanings. Originally, it meant the web page that a browser is set to use
when it starts up. Today, the more common meaning is the main web page for a business,
organization, person or simply the main page out of a collection of web pages, e.g.
"Check out so-and-sos new Home Page."
Host -- Any computer on a network
that is a repository for services available to other computers on the network. It is quite
common to have one host machine provide several services, such as WWW and USENET.
Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) --
A text-based page description language that uses tags to describe formatting idioms and
allows richly formatted documents to be created using everyday text editors. HTML is the
language used to create Web pages.
Internet Network Information Center
(InterNIC) -- The administrative organization that is responsible for, among other things,
allocating domain names and distributing RFCs. The InterNIC is currently run by Network
Solutions and AT&T.
Internet Protocol (IP) -- The
protocol responsible for transmitting packets of data over the Internet and routing them
to their destinations. Tagging a packet with an IP address identifying an Internet host
and transmitting it using IP is analogous to addressing an envelope and dropping it in the
mail. IP plays the role of post office, allowing the networks and routers involved in the
delivery process to talk to each other as the packet finds its way to the addressee.
Internet Service Provider (ISP) --
A business or organization which is connected to the Internet and allows access to their
clients (users) to the Internet. Typically service providers provide their users with an
email site/address, access to usenet, Internet web sites, file transfer facilities, free
storage space on the service providers computer (typically up to 5 Mbytes free of
charge), and frequently free creation and use of each clients own web site.
Intranet -- The term intranet was
used to describe the first wave of Internet software deployment within companies and
organizations such as the Canadian Parliament. Many intranets are built around Web servers
delivering HTML. Companies and organizations are seeing that the same benefits apply over
the extranet, letting them share information with external partners over the Internet
Network News Transfer Protocol
(NNTP) -- A common method of transferring articles over Usenet.
PALS -- A standard library database
Request for Comments (RFC) -- An
on-line document containing proposals, standards, and other information regarding Internet
technologies. RFCs are available by anonymous FTP from a variety of locations, including
InterNIC's own ds.internic.net.
Telnet -- A program that allows
users following very standard procedures to use computers located on other networks
connected to Internet.
Uniform Resource Locator (URL) -- A
standardized way of representing different documents, media, and network services on the
World Wide Web. This unique addressing system is critical to locating information sources
on the Internet.
Usenet -- The global news-reading
network with a very wide range of interests. The range of interest groups increases daily
and includes groups in many languages.
Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML)
-- The 3-D counterpart to HTML, VRML is a scriptlike language that permits rich 3-D
scenes to be described in simple text files and displayed in VRML-capable Web browsers.
Webmaster -- The administrator
responsible for the management (and often design) of a World Wide Web site.
Whois -- A service for tracing the
name of a particular user on Internet.
WAIS -- Wide Area Information
Servers is a service that allows users to search intelligently for information among the
World Wide Web -- The initiative
created a universal, hypermedia-based method of access to information on Internet. This
has quickly become the dominant form of accessing information on the Internet. A www site
at its simplest is a small document with links to other documents which can be directly
addressed from anywhere on the Internet. This means that almost any small computer located
in someones home or office can be connected (via telephone, cable or satellite) with
their service provider who connects the site to the entire Internet. Similarly, one
service provider can offer its users their own web site free of charge with very few means
of actually knowing what is on the service providers computer.
GENERAL INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY TERMS
Bandwidth -- A simplified means of
describing the quantity of information that can be transmitted. A wider bandwidth implies
a higher data transmission rate.
Baud -- A term used to express the
number of bits per second of information being transmitted. When very large transfer rates
are used, the convention is to use bits per second, abbreviated to bps.
Bit -- An abbreviation for BInary
digiT, this is a single character in a binary number; unit of information capacity.
Byte -- A sequence of 8 binary
digits. Using ASCII, a byte can represent 256 different characters/symbols.
Computer Network -- A complex
consisting of two or more computers capable of interacting and communicating with each
other. The amount of data a network can transmit varies greatly depending on the
technology used, such as fibre-optics.
Data base -- A collection of
computerized data covering a specific domain of knowledge that can be retrieved through an
interactive dialogue with a computer system.
Gigabyte -- A representation of
1024 Megabytes or 1,048,576.00 Kilobytes. Often written Gb or Gbytes.
Hardware -- Physical equipment
(e.g., the terminal, computer monitor, etc.)
Kilobyte -- A simplified
representation of 1024 bytes, often written Kb or Kbytes. A page of text can normally be
stored in 2 to 4 Kb while an image of a page of text can take 60 to 120 Kb.
Local Area Network -- A generic
term applied to computer networks operating in a relatively small geographic area.
Line -- A channel or conductor
capable of transmitting signals.
Megabyte -- A representation of
1024 Kilobytes, often written Mb or Mbytes. To place this term in perspective, large
sophisticated computer programs frequently measure their storage needs in 5 to 30 Mb,
while a large uncompressed high quality digital photograph can take up to one Mb of
Modem -- An abbreviation of
MOdulator-DEModulator. A device used in data transmission for converting the computer
(digital) signal into a telephone signal (Analogue signal) and vice versa. In 1997 modems
with a transmission rate of 56 Kbps (or 1,000s of bits per second) are available
commercially for a relatively low cost.
Software -- The internal programs
or routines prepared to allow a computer to perform specific tasks. Several different
categories of programs exist, operating systems and application programs are two of the
RAM -- An abbreviation for Random
Access Memory which is used in all computers for temporary storage of data and
instructions to be processed by the computer.
T-1 to T-3 -- These are special
categories/standard of commercial telephone lines capable of carrying a large amount of
digital data. T1 can carry 1.544 Mbits of data per second (Mbps); T-2 is equivalent to
four T-1s, with a bandwidth of 6.3 Mbps; while T-3 is equivalent to 28 T-1, with a
bandwidth of 44.3 Mbps. Further, T-3 can be multiplexed into one dedicated high-speed line
of up to 560 Mbps; such a stream will usually be transmitted over fibre-optic cable or via
a microwave signal.
Teleconferencing -- Two main
variations of teleconferencing exist.
Video teleconferencing: A video
conference with several users is provided by video cameras and monitors set up in house or
in a public conferencing centre. It requires a high-bandwidth (TV capacity) network that
uses coaxial cable, optical fibres, microwave or satellite transmission. Conventional
computer networks cannot handle video. Video conferencing is slowly being integrated into
data networks which in time will all provide this capability.
Audio teleconferencing: A telephone
conference with several users is provided internally by an organization's PBX and
externally by the telephone companies.
Videoconferencing -- Video and
audio communication between two or more people via a videocodec (coder/decoder) at either
end and linked by digital circuits. Formerly needing at least T-1 speeds (1.54 megabits
per second), systems are now available that offer acceptable quality for general use at
* This paper
was originally prepared for the Delegation from the Parliament of Canada to the
Parliamentary Conference of the Americas, September 1997, Quebec City.
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the Information Highway Advisory Council, September 1995, p. vii.
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Joshua Cooper Ramo, "Welcome To The Wired World," TIME, 3 February, Vol. 149
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- An Abbreviation of MOdulator-DEModulator. A device used in data transmission for
converting the computer (digital) signal into a telephone signal (Analogue signal) and
vice versa. As of June 1997, modems with a transmission rate of 56 kbps (or 1000s of bits
per second) are available commercially at relatively low cost.
on Industry, Issue 2, 26 March 1996, p. 2-21 (Mr. Hull, Industry Canada Official).
Clifford Lynch, "Searching the Internet," Scientific American, March
1997, p. 52.
Bortnick, "Overview," Government Information Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 3,
1991, p. 255.
"U.S. Congress Broadcasts Hearing On Internet," Reuters, 26 June 1996.
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