Outside Networks May Come to MIT Cable TVBy Eric Richard
Associate News Editor
CNN, MTV, and ESPN may be on their way onto MIT Cable Television. MIT Cable is working with Continental Cablevision and the MIT administration in hopes of expanding its services to include the new channels, according to Randall Wayne Winchester, facilities coordinator for Telecommunications Systems.
Winchester added that MIT Cable is looking into extending the channel's service area to include off-campus independent living groups.
"I don't think many people are aware that we are this far along," said Winchester. "I think it is about time that we attempted to add more programming," he said.
Telecommunications Systems will distribute a questionnaire to students in the next week, according to Winchester, which will provide preliminary information about what channels students would like to see, how much interest there is in such a project, and what students feel about payments for the services.
"It is important that people receiving the service will have an input into what they are seeing," said Winchester. "The survey is the most important next step."
"Some very significant progress is about to be made,"said Stephen J. Lippard '65, professor of chemistry and housemaster for MacGregor House, who has been pushing for an expansion of the cable lineup for the past year. "A lot of it now has to do with the enthusiasm that the students show for the project," he said.
Although talks so far have primarily been with Continental Cablevision, Winchester emphasized that Telecommunications Systems has not settled upon one cable television company. "The survey does not specify vendor or means of delivery," he said.
The main issues still left to be resolved include what channels should be added, how they will be provided, and how these services will be paid for, Winchester said.
The channels available will be limited by the cable company's willingness to install on a bulk basis. In addition to CNN, ESPN, and MTV, other channels which are currently possibilities include Turner Network Television, WTBS, USA, Arts & Entertainment, Nickelodeon, and the Discovery Channel.
"Costs of providing the service have not been worked out yet," said Winchester, although he said that Continental Cablevision gave an estimate of $10 per month for 13 new channels. "Subtract a few channels and you lower the bill a little," Winchester said.
"If we can do it in a way that makes sense to the students and administration, I think it is a good idea," said Associate Dean of Student Affairs James R. Tewhey. Tewhey added that creating cable service had been discussed three to four years ago, but that the administration was never able to resolve the billing issue.
"I just try to serve as a catalyst to get the ball rolling," said Lippard. "The bottom line will be having cable available to those who want it. We seem to be moving in that direction, and that is a good sign. If the students would like to purchase it, and the price is reasonable, it will be available," Lippard said.
Outside cable has already been installed in test locations around campus including the SCC 24-Hour Coffeehouse, Kresge Auditorium, 26-100, 10-250, the Bartos Theater and the lobby of the Sloan Building (E52). Winchester said that these locations were chosen in order maximize seating and utility.
There will also be trials beginning next week to test the feasibility of expanding MIT Cable to off-campus ILGs. The signals will be sent via microwave and will carry a single channel which Winchester said could be used to send special events or student cable.