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Housing Office To Fund Channels on MIT Cable

By Keith J. Winstein

NEWS AND FEATURES DIRECTOR

CNN, Fox News, and The Cartoon Network are coming soon to the free section of MIT Cable. The Housing Office has agreed to pay for the channels and seven others following the disappearance last week of many premium channels from MIT Cable’s for-pay offering.

The channels soon to appear on MIT Cable are CNN, CNN Headline News, TNT, TBS, The Cartoon Network, USA, The Weather Channel, Fox News, Bloomberg Television, and C-SPAN 2.

The Housing Office will pay about $65,000 for reception equipment and MIT-wide distribution rights to the channels, said Karen A. Nilsson, the director of housing.

“We needed to do something and do something right away,” Nilsson said. “The ten channels that we’ve been able to put back on, particularly the news channels, I think are particularly important for our residents,” she said, citing the tense state of world affairs.

In the long term, Nilsson said, MIT will continue to investigate how to bring back more channels to MIT Cable following the bankruptcy of WSNet, the only firm that provided aggregated distribution of “core” cable television channels -- such as CNN -- digitally.

“Unless we can come up with a better solution, I am committed to doing it again next year,” Nilsson said. “All other options were prohibitively expensive.”

More channels will disappear

About 40 cable channels disappeared from MIT Cable’s premium offering last week, as a result of WSNet’s bankruptcy. The price of the service dropped accordingly, to $14 a month.

The premium offering, provided through Falls Earth Station, Inc., now includes only “second tier” channels provided by Comcast Corp. and commonly sold as “digital cable channels.”

Some of these channels, such as ESPN2 and MTV2, will disappear from the for-pay service later this semester, wrote Randall W. Winchester, the team leader of MIT Cable, in an e-mail last week.

“This is because the programmers ... do not sell the ‘second tier’ channels without the ‘core’ channel present as well,” he wrote.

Only WSNet provided the “core” channels digitally to MIT. Analog delivery is less desirable because MIT must then digitize the channels itself, requiring expensive equipment, or transmit the channels in the less-efficient analog standard, which uses up far more of the MIT cable system’s bandwidth than digital transmission.