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Hernando School Board supports leap into Web stream for instructional TV channel

April 20, 2010
Original Publication : April 15, 2010 by Tony Marrero

All the riveting drama of Hernando School Board meetings may be coming to a computer screen near you.

The board on Tuesday gave its initial approval to purchase hardware and tech support to stream the Hernando Instructional Television channel live on the Web and to offer on-demand access to board meetings.

Board members asked district staff, though, to negotiate with the vendor for a better price for the service.

The district would pay an initial $7,885 to Long-Island based IQM2 for equipment and training and a $695 monthly maintenance fee, district communications manager Roy Gordon told the board during the workshop.

"We're looking to move us into the 21st century," Gordon said.

The benefits are many, he said.

Visitors to the site would be able to log on from any computer in the world to watch the channel's content, including live board meetings and workshops.

The system includes an archive of past meetings and agendas that allows users to click on an agenda item and go instantly to that portion of the meeting

Currently, HITV is broadcast only on BrightHouse Channel 614. The online system would provide access to residents who don't have digital cable. That list includes some schools here in the county, Gordon said.

"It kind of limits the number of people who are able to view it," Gordon said. When asked by a board member if residents had requested the service, Gordon said yes.

The county contracted with IQM2 in 2008 to stream its Hernando County Government Broadcasting Channel. County meetings are archived there by agenda, too. The county also streams and archives meetings for the city of Brooksville and the Spring Hill Fire Rescue Commission.

School Board Chairman Pat Fagan, who also serves as the county's parks and recreation director, said he has seen firsthand the benefits of the service to residents who want to review all or a portion of a government meeting at their convenience. It's also a good tool for staffers, Fagan said.

"It's a worthwhile investment," he said.

Board member James Yant agreed.

"If someone doesn't have a computer at home, there's always the libraries and other outlets," Yant said.

Some board members balked a bit at the cost, though, and asked Gordon to try to get the monthly rate down. A contract would have to be approved with a formal vote at a regular board meeting.

He agreed to try, but noted the company had already given the district a break on the training costs because of the existing contract with the county.

The monthly rate seems pricey because IQM2 provides additional bandwidth so the county's existing system doesn't bog down, Gordon said. The company also provides remote archival services on its own server. Currently, the district archives board meetings and other content on DVDs.

Superintendent Bryan Blavatt agreed the money would be well-spent.

"I think we're looking at being as service-friendly to the people as we can, and this is a service for them," Blavatt said.

Problems with the service have been few, and the company responds promptly when there is a technical glitch, said Richard Johnson, video assistant for the county.

"The service they've given us has been excellent," Johnson said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

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