Future of IPTV in doubt

Upcoming meeting to address potential funding for second year of program

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Although the University’s Internet Protocol Television pilot program – which allows students to watch TV on their computers – garnered positive reviews during its inaugural year last year, it is unclear whether an expanded IPTV will be available in residence halls for 2006-2007.

“At this point in time, I don’t know if IPTV will be offered or not,” wrote Kara Kelley, project director of IPTV and senior director of personal technology services for Computing and Information Services, in an e-mail to The Herald.

“We’re going to try to keep IPTV,” said Zachary Townsend ’08, former vice president of the Undergraduate Council of Students and a member of the council’s IPTV steering committee. “But the money has to be appropriated from some combination of CIS, (the Office of Residential Life) and a division of (the Office of Campus Life and Student Services),” he said.

Last year, administrators reached an agreement with IPTV’s provider, VideoFurnace, which allowed Brown to operate the service without paying operational fees.

“At most schools, the pilot only lasts one semester, but we asked VideoFurnace to extend the pilot to the whole year and they did,” Townsend said. However, the low-priced pilot program will not be available this year.

Kelley estimated the 50-channel service and Video-on-Demand equipment would cost about $458,000 plus $176,000 for hardware and software maintenance.

Kelley and Richard Bova, senior associate dean and director of RefLife, will meet July 20 with the Information Technology Project Review Committee to discuss funding options for an expanded IPTV service.

Townsend said the service was originally offered to address students’ frustration with traditional cable television offered in the University’s residence halls. The aging cable system cannot feasibly be upgraded to increase channel offerings and was often tremendously costly to maintain, Townsend said.

“If parts of the system broke, buildings basically lost service,” he said. “IPTV was seen as a long-term solution to the problem.”

IPTV offered 16 channels to students in residence halls, 11 of which were new to the residence halls.

“We received well over 200 emails from students regarding IPTV and (99 percent) of the feedback was positive,” Kelley wrote. “The most common request was for more channels.”

Kelley wrote that according to a study of IPTV usage, 2,951 individuals used the service last October and November. This amounts to about 64 percent of the population in residence halls.

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