Saturday, June 23, 2012

Free WIFI is Coming, We all Know Why

Technology continues to change around us. For the last six years, the OJCC has advocated and supported the leveraging of technology. The benefits of technology are obvious, in terms of cost and time savings. Technology makes us more productive and efficient.  Most compensation professionals are leveraging technology, and relate to us that they are using far less paper than ever. They recognize that the cost of storing paper, alone, is a strong motivation to minimize paper use and maximize portable document (PDF) images.

Likewise, electronic filing leverages technology. This platform has dramatically reduced the cost of transmitting documents to the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims. As of June 2012, the e-JCC platform has saved practitioners at least $1,269,726, and has saved the OJCC at least $1,981,452, a total of $3,251,178.  This is inspiring and gratifying in itself. It is only more inspiring when you know that the total OJCC investment in e-filing is less than $1,000,000. 

E-filing was voluntary for several years following the initial deployment of the platform in 2005. Effective October 31, 2010, e-filing became mandatory by rule.  In the eight months after that rule became effective, the OJCC averaged 38,475 e-filings per month.  On July 1, 2011, e-filing became mandatory by statute. In the 11 months July 2011 to May 2012, the OJCC averaged 38,352.27 per month.  Enforcement of the mandatory e-filing was deferred following these mandates, as the e-JCC platform was upgraded to permit such enforcement.  When the statutory mandate became effective (see the April 19, 2012 blog), there were factual situations, such as out-of-state accidents, for which the e-filing platform was not optimal.

Why has the average monthly volume of filings decreased slightly following the statutory mandate?  The easy answer is likely the continuing decline in rates of “new case” and petition filings.

This illustrates, however, that the electronic image (PCF) paradigm is now entrenched and accepted. A consistent complaint about this paradigm, however, has been the difficulty of accessing these PDF documents, the case docket, case management systems, and electronic mail from the OJCC District Offices. Certainly, the public is greatly benefited by the ability to access the internet from our offices.

When this idea was initially proposed years ago by practitioners including Ricardo Morales (MIA), Craig Gibbs (JAX), and Brian Carter (PNS)(and others). The difficulty we have had has been financial and logistical. Logistically, the OJCC is obligated to assure that WIFI access in our office is appropriate both in terms of content and bandwidth use. All OJCC office internet traffic is routed through the Department of Management Services, and inappropriate internet use in our offices could be attributed to our staff or agency. Further, allowing public access to our internet could inadvertently allow access to confidential information. The alternative, stand-alone DSL wireless access option represented a significant monthly expense (think of what you spend for access at home and multiply those phone line and DSL charges by 17 offices and twelve months per year and you will find that this alternative would have cost about $10,000.00 annually), in addition to about $2,000 in hardware investment.

The solution came through evolution of technology. In the winter of 2012 our IT department identified a wireless solution that allows public access to a limited sector of the bandwidth already in our District Offices, protects privacy by precluding access to confidential information, and allows us to monitor the use by our customers and guests. The hardware investment to accommodate this use was costly, almost $20,000. However, this hardware solves all the issues above, and allows us to limit the volume of bandwidth guests in our offices may use. This prevents guest internet use from slowing the ability of our staff to process their (your) work. We will recover the cost in about two years, and thereafter face only the minimal maintenance expense to provide this service. 

The equipment is operational in Pensacola, Panama City, and Tallahassee. It will become operational in coming weeks in each office.  Your WIFI device should identify both the “DOAH-OJCC_guest” and “DOAH_staff” networks.  Only the  “DOAH-OJCC_guest” network is accessible to guests, and you will find the other (““DOAH_staff”) network locked.  The public WIFI access utilizes the same internet connection that allows our OJCC staff to upload orders and notices, and which staff uses for database changes including scheduling your trials and mediations. Therefore, the volume of bandwidth for  “DOAH-OJCC_guest” use is limited. The WIFI access should be sufficient for email, accessing documents from the OJCC Docket or an attorney’s case management portal or “cloud.” The bandwidth is not sufficient for downloading music, video or large files such as photographs. Please do not attempt to use the WIFI for these purposes.

We are hopeful this service is of assistance to you, and that it enhances your experience at this Office of Judges of Compensation Claims District Office. 

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