19 September 2006

Clever Networks

New support to extend the availability of UCTV is being sought.

The Federal Government’s Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA) recently called for proposals for funding under its Clever Networks program [see http://www.dcita.gov.au/communications_for_business/funding_programs__and__support/clever_networks]. DCITA is seeking proposals for projects that use broadband technologies to enhance the delivery and effectiveness of health and education services in rural and regional Australia: projects that create demand for broadband services and stimulate the rollout of infrastructure in regions lacking it. Government co-contributions can be from $500,000 to $5m.

The Technical Services Unit is working with the Division’s Learning Communities Research Area and a number of others around the University and in the wider community to put together a proposal based around services using streamed live and on-demand video, especially to remote areas using broadband services that are being delivered under DCITA’s $1.1 billion Connect Australia package.

The Division’s UCTV service now delivers 22 international television channels to its campus network, and beyond to other Australian university campuses through AARNet3. Staff and students can watch live, full-size and quality broadcast television channels on their desktop computer. UCTV also provides a mechanism for any university to have their own digital live television channel running on the network, using content provided for example by staff or students of media, communication and language courses.

With recent advances in video compression technologies and consumer computers, viewers outside high-bandwidth university campuses could (technically if not legally) now watch the live channels on their computers using open source software: the proposed project would refine these technologies and techniques to deliver the 22 channels currently going around AARNet3 (and potentially other channels as well) to broadband users in rural and regional Australia at bandwidths appropriate to the local network.

The proposed project would be supported by existing work being done in the Learning Communities Research Area to research digital learning communities and how new social networking applications on the web can facilitate learning outcomes, increasing the chances that DCITA would look favourably on an application from UC.

We are also exploring the possibility of bringing in telecommunications, computing, content and legal partners into the bid: in fact DCITA require contributions from the bidders that will be matched by DCITA and other Government agencies. There also needs to be a plausible plan in place for the project to continue after the DCITA funding ceases.