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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

With IPTV may come numerous concerns

Published: February 11, 2005
Section: News

One of the reasons for the pilot is to iron out potential problems with the system including incompatibilities with the Brandeis network.

Hoot testing of IPTV in real-world conditions revealed that watching the video streams can cause echoing and distortion on phone calls and can sometimes make phone usage impossible. This behavior, which can also cause the phone to spontaneously reboot, was most frequently observed while changing channels.

Systems Services Manager John Turner was surprised when informed of the problems.
We have not heard of these problems, but the point of this pilot is to catch any problems that may arise, he told The Hoot. The production version of this system will not have those problems, we simply wouldnt allow it to be installed if that wasthe case.
Union Secretary Aaron Braver 07 was cautiously optimistic after his meeting with ITS staff. On the whole it looks like a pretty good system, but there are some potential bumps that need to be investigated, he said.

Possible concerns include whether or not IPTV uses a well-established and open format, copyright issues, potential inability to use TiVo-type Personal Video Recorders, and the need for a black box in order to convert the signal into what current analog TVs use, Braver said.

Turner confirmed the current inability to record of IPTV and told The Hoot that recording from a computer will not be a feature that will be added.

Associate Director of ITS Anna Tomecka confirmed that a special set-top box would be necessary to convert the signal to use it with a regular TV. She estimated that the box would cost under $100 and also that ITS will probably provide them free of charges to students living in areas with common room TVs.

Brandeis has received a set-top box to test and will do so soon. At the moment though ITS has not assed their capabilities.

Turner also confirmed that areas of the school that currently have TVs, like the Shapiro Student Centers TV lounge, will get these set-top boxes.

I think there is a lot of wonderful potential;

however I am extremely wary of its implementation. said Union Treasurer Aaron Gaynor 07. Im concerned about the channel selection and the availability of the converter boxes.

No one from ITS knows what channels will be offered with IPTV. They said that such a decision will based off what students watch and want. Hanson told The Hoot that ITS will even look into the feasibility of getting HBO.

Channel selection will depend on the number of Video Furnace servers Brandeis purchases. Each server encodes two channels of television. ITS would theoretically need to purchase 35 such servers to maintain the existing number of channels.
At Northwestern, only 20 cable channels are available. According to their campus newspaper, NWU has refused to purchase additional servers to stream more channels. As a result, there have been significant disputes within the student body as to which channels should be offered.

We dont know the costs yet, because we have to get through the pilot to figure out more details about what we are up against, Chief Information Officer Perry Hanson said. We need a lot more feedback. Wed like to provide an appropriate set of channels, whatever they are.

Watching television on their computers will mean students must give up their remote control. According to Turner, students can independently buy infared computer remote controls and program the buttons to change channels with IPTV.

With IPTV, ITS will be able to track which channels people watch and when. Turner told The Hoot that he, himself will only be able to access the aggregate data so he can determine which channels are being watched and which ones are not. This will enable Brandeis to cater content to the students needs.

Hanson attempted to assuage privacy concerns. We would apply the same safeguards that we have in place for email and other data that we manage, he said. We would never reveal anything about an individual unless we have a court order or a judicial order.

Hoot tests revealed that IPTV channels looked markedly worse than their cable equivalents. Turner claimed that the Video Furnace systems are streaming high-quality signals at 720×480 resolution, the same as normal television. He suggested that signal quality might be related to the pilot equipment, which included an older model VCR.