Students Support Cable TV in DormsBy Eric Richard
Associate News Editor
According to an MIT Cable survey distributed to dormitory residents in early November, nearly 80 percent of undergraduates are interested in receiving outside cable services on campus.
Randy W. Winchester, facilities coordinator for Telecommunication Systems, said that he has been "overwhelmed by the number of surveys that came back."Of the more than 4,000 copies of the survey that were distributed, about 25 percent have been returned. MIT Cable sent out the questionnaires to get preliminary information for tentative plans to expand its offerings.
Of those responding, 77 percent said they wanted MIT Cable to provide additional cable services, and 55 percent said they were willing to pay a monthly charge to receive cable in their dormitory rooms.
CNN ranked as favorite
Students ranked CNN as the station they would like to receive most. The channel was closely followed by CNN Headline News, while MTV, ESPN, and the Discovery Channel were ranked together in third place.
On the write-in votes, Black Entertainment Television, the Science Fiction Channel, and HBO each garnered approximately twenty votes. Winchester said, however, that the Science Fiction Channel is not available in Cambridge.
Winchester had earlier expressed doubts about getting movie channels such as HBO and Showtime in dormitories because of contractual problems with Continental Cablevision. But he has not excluded the possibility of adding them to the line-up. "We could run them into individual rooms, but not into dorm lounges," he said. In their contracts with cable companies, HBO, Showtime, and other movie channels specify that they are not to be broadcast in public places, including dormitory lounges and lounges in independent living groups.
Winchester emphasized the fact that the final lineup of stations has not been chosen. "We are going to be weighing the rankings of the stations against the cost of the individual channels, to come up with a final package. . . . It looks like we will be offering the service package, which includes the most channels we can provide, for under $8 a month."
Winchester added that WTBS, an independent superstation in Atlanta, CNN, and CNN Headline News are provided without charge when Turner Network Television is ordered. He also said that he hopes to be able to add other stations, including C-SPAN, which come at very little cost. Stations like C-SPAN, which provides live coverage of congressional proceedings, are "incredibly important to have on any cable service," he said.
Additionally, the survey results indicated that almost 60 percent of those responding have televisions in their rooms and that nearly half of those without televisions would get one if more cable services were offered. "This is the first time we have some indication of a television census," Winchester said. "It is kind of surprising that the number is that high, but it is reassuring."
Plans move to next step
Working out technical and billing problems is the next step in the process of getting outside cable in the dormitories. Winchester said that the current system is unable to carry many new channels. Thus, before more channels can be added, MIT Cable needs to upgrade and change its amplifiers. The system will also need to go through a test phase to clear up any difficulties.
MIT Cable has also set up two off-campus test sites to determine if the signal can be broadcast to ILGs. The two sites are currently picking up test signals in an effort to "get them used to using the service," Winchester said.