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MIT Cable Expands, 14 Channels Added

Networks Come as Surprise to Students

By Nick Semenkovich

MIT Cable expanded to include 14 new basic cable channels, despite previous announcements that only three channels would be added. The new channels were added without removing C-Span 2, Bloomberg Television, or MIT Weather When You Want It, which were originally slated to be replaced.

The changes will be reflected in an additional $1.50 per month cost to housing, effective next term, according to Undergraduate Association Vice President Ruth Miller ’07 (also a Tech Campus Life columnist).

The expansion was made possible with the termination of MIT’s subscription TV service. “We had a block of channels open up,” Miller said ’07. “We were originally going to replace three channels, but we got extra space from canceling the subscription TV service.” (See page 13 for a full listing for MIT’s new basic cable channels.)

MIT’s canceled subscription service offered basic digital cable for $14 per month, with optional Pay-Per-View Events and premium channels such as HBO for additional fees. Not counting the MIT Cable office, 39 people were subscribed to the basic package, with 11 subscribed to HBO.

Given the small numbers and an increase in fees for 2007, it made little sense to continue the subscription service, said Randall W. Winchester, team leader of MIT Cable Television.

“We realized in November that the subscription service was no longer viable,” Winchester said. “In light of a proposed rate increase for this year, we chose to end the subscription service.”

The canceled service opened up channels 48–61, bringing in the long awaited Sci-Fi Channel and Comedy Central, among others.

Cable-storm had strongly advocated for changes to MIT Cable. The group formed in Spring 2006 and is comprised of the Undergraduate Association, Graduate Student Council, Dormitory Council, MIT Cable Television, and Housing.

“It’s just a remarkable project bringing together a lot of people from student government and the administration,” Winchester said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of students and administrators work together so closely and act so quickly.”

Following a survey in September of last year, Cable-storm selected Comedy Central, the Sci-Fi Channel, and the Discovery Channel to replace three existing channels, C-Span 2, Bloomberg Television, and MIT Weather When You Want It.

“The 14 new channels come with those packages and now we can offer all of the channels rather than just a few,” Miller said.

The student response to the new channels has been generally positive. “It makes me feel like MIT loves us a little more,” Arup Sarma ’08 said. “Although I know a few people who are upset about the lack of ESPN.”

That sports network, which has consistently come in at the top of cable television surveys, is not available to students.

“We’re aware of the demand and are still working on a solution,” Winchester said.

Previous cost estimates have ranged from $225,000 to $500,000 per year for whole campus service. Alternatively, students could individually subscribe for $10 per month, although that would require a subscription and billing system.

“I would appreciate ESPN, but I wouldn’t be willing to pay for it,” said Daniel Piedra ’09. “I’m just happy to see all the new channels, especially FX and Comedy Central.”

Not all students, however, were as pleased with the additional channels. “TV? What’s TV?” said Kristina M. Haller ’08. “Is that like BitTorrent for the analog world?”