Videoconferencing on the 4CNet Backbone
On May 28, 1998, 4CNet authorized the first stream of community college video on its statewide data network. The event was the result of the 4CNet Backbone Upgrade Project, a Telecommunications Special Project funded by the California Community College Chancellors Office.
The project, now midway in its implementation, involves five community colleges, 4CNet, and the Chancellors Office in a partnership to run a video pilot study, utilizing PictureTel Venue 2000 video-conferencing units, the 4CNet backbone, and two multipoint video bridges.
The project began in May 1997. In a response to a Request for Applications (RFA), Butte Community College was awarded the project. Working in cooperation with the Chancellors Office and 4CNet, Butte College was authorized to design and implement a pilot study to test video over the 4CNet backbone.
To aid in the pilot study, the project authorized the participation of four additional community colleges. Through another RFA process, Shasta College, College of the Desert, Cerritos College, and Hartnell College were selected. All of these colleges exhibited in their applications substantial experience in videoconferencing.
Under the requirements of the project, each participating college was required to establish either an ISDN or a T-1 connection from their PictureTel Venue 2000 to an entry point on the 4CNet backbone. These connections allowed each college to participate over the network in either a point-to-point or multipoint video conference.
With all selected colleges participating, a series of technical tests are currently being performed. At the end of the individual tests, each college will complete a test report, describing the overall performance levels of the video network as observed at their site. The observers will be noting the reliability of ISDN and T-1 connections, ability to control the conference, as well as voice and picture quality. All data will be included in a final report to be filed with the Chancellors Office at the completion of the project.
Included in the study is an investigation of multiple designs and management options for video-conferencing networks. One design being explored by the project emphasizes the location of video bridges at community colleges. This is particularly important in those cases where the college has a high interest in distance learning and has many remote locations to serve within their geographic area. The video bridges will be connected through the 4CNet backbone.
A second design option exhibits a more centralized version that locates video bridges at the 4CNet node locations. This option may be of interest to those colleges that serve smaller geographic areas or have predominantly statewide applications.
Also included in the study are three open forums. These forums will include interested faculty and staff at each college in a multipoint video-conference. The conference will examine important issues affecting future plans to construct a statewide video network. Among the issues to be discussed are:
The need for each district to construct a telecommunications plan to support videoconferencing
Butte College will collect the minutes of each meeting and will include them in a final project report to be filed with the Chancellors Office on October 31, 1998.