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L.A. City Council allows Google e-mail project to go forward despite glitches

August 4, 2010 |  1:53 pm

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday agreed to allow Google Inc. to continue moving the city's 30,000 employees to its online e-mail system, despite a number of performance and security problems facing the implementation.

The $7.25-million project, which was supposed to be finished by the end of June, has been slowed as the city and Google have had trouble satisfying data security requirements to protect the e-mail accounts of the 13,000 Los Angeles Police Department personnel, among others. Other users have reported delays of many hours in the sending and receiving of e-mail.

Because of the delays, the city will be forced to continue paying for its 10-year-old e-mail system at the same time as it pays for the new system. But city officials announced Wednesday that Google had agreed to cover the cost of the old system until the switchover was complete. The costs could rise to $415,000 if the project is not finished by next June.

However, city technology officials and representatives from the LAPD and Google said they expected the implementation to be finished in November. Before that, Google will have to satisfy data security rules set out by the state Department of Justice as well as conduct a successful pilot program with LAPD personnel.

An earlier pilot of the Google system by city employees ran long this year after users complained that the system was slow and lacked many of the features they needed. City officials have said the slowness is a result of the need to run the old and new e-mail systems concurrently.

But it's the security concerns that have caused the most problems. The state requires that law enforcement data be encrypted and physically protected and that Google employees with access to the LAPD data have had background checks. Some of those requirements have presented challenges for Google.

Though some council members worried about the slow pace of the project, others expressed optimism that the project would be completed in the near term, with Council President Eric Garcetti praising the city and Google for sticking with what he said was a forward-thinking project.

"I want all folks out there to see L.A. as a laboratory where we can make things work," Garcetti said.

-- David Sarno