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Milwaukee Suburb Improves Public Access Video Delivery

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Editor's Note: This is a vendor-written case study. StreamingMedia.com accepts vendor-written case studies based solely on editorial quality and their level of interest to readers.

The state of Wisconsin enacted a video franchise law in 2007 that gave AT&T the opportunity to secure a statewide franchise and launch its U-verse residential IPTV service in communities across the state. But as it rolled out the service, AT&T was required to provide the same public, educational, and government (PEG) access television programming on its service that each city’s incumbent cable operator was already airing. In most cases, this programming included both locally produced content and programming supplied by state and federal agencies. PEG content also features information about state and city services, community events, and coverage of city council meetings.

The burden of delivering PEG content in a format compatible with U-verse technology rests on the shoulders of municipalities, most of which currently provide a cable feed to the headends of operators such as Time Warner and which now must invest in IP-based solutions for video delivery. Therefore, when AT&T decided to bring U-verse to West Allis, a city of 60,000 in Milwaukee County, the city began to look for cost-effective encoding solutions that would deliver video for the platform while requiring little intervention and maintenance.

Next-Generation Streaming
When Jerry Musial took on the position of video and cable coordinator for West Allis, he became involved in the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA), an organization representing the communications needs and interests of local governments and their advisors. He also took part in the municipal conversations held with AT&T prior to the passage of the state video franchise law. As a result, when AT&T was granted the right to offer its services in West Allis, Musial already understood the changes that would be necessary to make PEG programming available via both cable and IPTV services. To find out more about how to handle the streaming of content for U-verse, he turned to a neighboring Wisconsin municipality, the city of Milwaukee.

To port its government access programs to U-verse, Milwaukee had invested in a Niagara streaming media encoder from ViewCast. Musial visited the Milwaukee site and decided to do likewise, having seen that Niagara had been set up easily, was a sound piece of equipment, and would be equally well-suited for encoding and streaming PEG programming from West Allis to AT&T’s network and onto U-verse. He chose to install a Niagara encoder within his city’s broadcast facility.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Jon Matte, Video Specialist II, in the City of West Allis’ video control room

Niagara encodes and outputs multiple streams simultaneously in viewing formats such as Windows Media, Flash, and Real Video; features analog and SDI inputs as well as digital AES/EBU audio inputs; and accepts all popular worldwide video and audio standards. To enable plug-and-play simplicity for cities such as West Allis that need a reliable, low-cost encoding solution for U-verse programming, all Niagara encoders on the market feature AT&T’s PEG streaming specifications preprogrammed as a menu item.

Simple, Reliable Delivery
The Niagara system installed at West Allis encodes PEG video for transport over the network to the U-verse system, which began serving the city’s viewing area in February 2008. Since the system was placed online, it has required no maintenance. The encoder operates around the clock, enabling the city to expand its reach via new IPTV services without requiring the time and expertise of the city’s video and cable staff.

"Thanks to ViewCast, we’re able to bring our government access programs to an even broader audience via leading-edge IPTV," says Musial. "The Niagara system was extremely easy to adopt, and its budget-conscious pricing played a big role in our choice. As a non-technical person, I really appreciated the excellent support and assistance we received from ViewCast, which enabled us to get up and running quickly and smoothly."

Now, with its Niagara system in place, West Allis is positioned to take advantage of IPTV video delivery as awareness of and demand for such services continue to grow.

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